Advent is the joyful celebration of Jesus’ first arrival in humility and the anxious awaiting of His second in glory. It is season for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting. During Advent, we take time out of our daily routines to quietly wait and pray for the coming of Christ.
In the midst of all the holiday noise, traffic, hurry and commotion, Advent is a counter-cultural act of intentional patience. We slow down, we wait, we pray and we rest.
On Christmas we rejoice. Christ has come! Born a baby in the manager. The long expected king, come in the most unexpected way imaginable. But during Advent we long for this king to come again. We wait for His peace and rest and joy and justice to finally reign again on earth as it is in heaven. In Advent, we enter into the story of Israel and share their longing for a Savior.
For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.
For Israel, the story of salvation was a story of exile and redemption. They went from rest in the Garden to harsh labor in the arid desert. From the land of milk and honey to a life of slavery in Egypt. From the safety and protection of the walls of Jerusalem to exile in Babylon and Assyria.
Sin is losing our way. Leaving the safety of home. Walking away from the protection of our heavenly Father and being exiled into the clouds of thick darkness. Being ravished by sin, death, evil and injustice. Sin is exile. Salvation is coming back home.
Therefore, the great hope for Israel was a savior who would rescue his people from the land of darkness and bring them back home. Back into the safety and protection of the city of God once more.
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep.
This prophecy in Ezekiel tells us that our problem is not just that we have broken a few arbitrary rules and we need to clean up our lives a little bit. No. Our problem is that we are sheep, utterly helpless and defenseless, and we have been led astray by bad and corrupt shepherds. What is the solution?
I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
Because we are like sheep who have been led astray and because there is no one else who can lead us back home, God says, “I will come and shepherd my people.” God himself will come down and set things right. No more corrupt leaders. No more injustice. No more anarchy, tyranny or confusion.
God himself will come down, through the clouds and thick darkness. He will rescue his people from a culture of failed leadership. A land filled with poverty, fear and violence. God himself will lead his people home. He will bind up the wounded, He will strengthen the weak, and He will bring them into a land filled with food and water and rest.
Today in our country most of us do not have to worry too much about food or water, thankfully. But if you open up your news feed, its clear that our nation is in a season of deep political and social unrest. Politicians and world leaders acting like children. People being mowed down with automatic weapons in schools, in streets and in churches. Powerful CEOs, Senators, Journalists, actors and comedians preying upon women and children who looked up to them. More information than any other time of human history combined, all at our fingertips, and yet all of it being spun by corporations, powerful special interests, and even foreign governments to the point that it feels like a cloud of thick darkness. Nobody knows who to trust or believe.
I will make them lie down… I will feed them with justice.
God says “I myself will come down. I will make them lie down in green pastures. I will give them rest. I will feed them with justice.” No longer ruled by violent dictators and arrogant tyrants. No longer looking over their shoulder in fear of anarchy. No longer reading the news with a sense of hopelessness, confusion and foreboding doom.
The hope of Advent is that God himself will come down and He will finally give us rest.