Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of patient resolve and steadfastness. Look at how we honor those who have practiced endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job. And you have seen what the Lord has accomplished, for the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
—James 5: 7-9, Common English Bible
Many Christians, but not all, will attend church Sunday and find sanctuaries filled with the decorations of the Christmas season – evergreens, trees, sparkling lights, garlands, wreaths and candles.
Somewhere, stuck off to a side or more likely overshadowed even at some central place, will be a simple wreath and ring of candles, with a large center candle. The Advent candles and wreath, like the Christian liturgical season that actually begins Sunday, become lost in the expectation of Christmas, a season that doesn’t officially start until Christmas Day.
Advent looks ahead certainly, not to the next season, but to a new heaven and a new earth heralding the coming of the Lord – again.
It’s much easier to use all the stories about the first Advent – the birth of Jesus, the life that followed, then death and resurrection – because stories, biblical and otherwise, provide the narrative to use again and again.
The Book of James speaks of another Advent – the second one, unscripted, unseen, with no record on which to rely. It is an article of faith, and more importantly of hope, at the heart of the larger Jesus story.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the coming of the Lord. Consider the farmer who waits patiently for the coming of rain in the fall and spring, looking forward to the precious fruit of the earth. You also must wait patiently, strengthening your resolve, because the coming of the Lord is near,” the writer said.
The late Peter Gomes, a great preacher, said succinctly that James is about the “ ... Lord coming in a way and in a form we have not yet experienced.”
The farmer is the important image because farmers are both patient and busy – preparing for what’s to come by nurturing the crop. Then, in the future but also in the here and now, hope, expectation and work all are realized.
That is the hope and the nature of Advent – unfulfilled but reasonably expected in due time.