Advent: Taste and See

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:11–13, ESV)

“What are you waiting for?”

Advent asks that question of us. If we would slow down and listen the question is being asked over and over again. “What are you waiting for?”

Many of us, myself included, often find ourselves waiting (or wanting I should say) the good gifts of the Giver. We long for salvation, perfected bodies, sinless souls, heaven, and the end to misery, pain, and injustice. We want good things. But do we want the source of those things? Do we want the One from whom every good and perfect gift comes (James 1:17)?

I suspect we might, although we don’t know it enough to articulate it well. The gifts are, as C.S. Lewis put it, beams of light that trace back to the sun itself. The gifts make us long for the Giver. But I don’t think we know it well. The restoration of our broken and ailing bodies tells us of One who was resurrected from death itself. The healing of the soul tells us of One who has conquered sin by his sinless life. The joy of heaven tells of us of being in the presence of the One who is peace and joy and glory. The bringing of perfect justice tells us of the King who will right every wrong and reign over us all in the Kingdom come, making all things new. We long for these gifts, but they should really point us to the Giver.

Paul told Titus that the first Advent of Grace (God’s bringing salvation to all through Christ — Titus 2:11) prepares and trains us to wait now for the second Advent of Glory (the appearing of our hope, which is Christ himself — Titus 2:13).

This causes me to ask a question of myself, do I find Christ desirable? Or, do I long for and eagerly wait for Christ himself? Strip away all the the good gifts that I desire and long for, do I look forward to being with Christ forever? If not, why? What keeps both me and you from desiring Christ? Surely, one reason it is our sinful hearts that desire all sorts of other things beyond Christ. This is the great work of Satan to distract us from the best while causing us to settle for the good. Yet, another reason I find that keeps me from desiring Christ is that I haven’t tasted of Christ frequently. I find that I tend to lose my desire for Christ when I haven’t reflected on his “excellence” with regularity.

Consider our cravings for certain types of food (for some reason right now I’m hungry for a juicy steak). We find our desire for that meal increases as we contemplate it with increasing frequency. We might have in our mind that the meal is of particular splendor and taste. We salivate thinking about the goodness of the meal. It is the best we’ve ever eaten. In our minds we meditate and fixate on the meal and when we have it the joy is increased because the actual meal was better than our mind made it. The point is, if we aren’t meditating on Christ regularly, and particularly who he is, then we are starving ourselves of desire for Christ. No wonder the Psalmist tells us “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Frequent “tasting” of Christ births deeper longing for Christ. If we merely taste the gifts we will have a sugar rush of joy, but miss the greater delight of the Giver himself.

Advent as a season is for us to increase our appetite for Christ. It’s a time for us to reflect on the “excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). In so doing we will increase our expectation and longing for the Giver himself, and not just his great and wonderful gifts.

So let’s find a banquet table of Christ himself. Let’s look at the glories of Christ. Let's gaze upon his wonderful and diverse excellencies. As Jonathan Edwards put it, let us find the “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.” Let’s pause looking for the gifts and find the Giver himself. As we do, and as we wait, our desire, and our eagerness for that second Advent will only increase. We will sing and worship and rejoice in the Giver himself.

This is who we are waiting for. 

Advent: Waiting for the Giver

Last week I enjoyed the splendor of one of America’s favorite Thanksgiving traditions, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Growing up, on Thanksgiving morning we would watch it and see the huge balloons, floats, bands, and celebrities march through the streets of New York City. It was a part of the ritual of Thanksgiving day. Last Thursday was a special moment to be able to actually watch the parade in real life.

As we watched the parade roll by I began to hear a common refrain from my children. “I’m cold. Is it over, can we go yet?” Yes, it was cold. Yes it was a long parade, but I didn’t want my kids to miss anything. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our family. As they watched and sometimes let out a little cry I realized there was a major incentive to keep them there; Santa.

My kids love to see Santa. We aren’t a “Santa is the reason for Christmas” family but we do allow them to have fun and enjoy the mystery of a dude who brings gifts from the North Pole at Christmas time. We teach our kids about the real St. Nick (you know the one who loved Jesus, was a pastor, served the poor, and beat up a heretic). But we have fun with it too. Seeing Santa is just fun.

Every time that I mentioned to our kids that we were waiting for Santa to show up at the parade they quieted down, quit their whining, and enjoyed what was in front of them. They knew the coming of Santa was the end of the parade and that they could endure the cold and enjoy whatever was in front of them while they waited. So they waited it out. And we had a blast.

As I’ve been thinking through this month and season of Advent I’m eager to get to the end as well. The month of waiting in front of me through difficult circumstances is not something I’m looking forward to. I want to get to the end of it, flop on my couch (wherever it will end up), and enjoy the world in front of me. But for this season I have to wait. And this is a completely Christian posture. We must wait.

Romans 8 tells us that we are waiting:

We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” (Romans 8:23, NLT)

We wait for our redemption. We wait for our adoption. But more than anything we wait for Christ. The parade the other day becomes a parable of Advent for me. It’s not just that I’m waiting for a new job, a home, a glorified body, or heaven. I’m waiting for Christ. Moving through this month of waiting then must become for me a season of expectation no so much of God’s gifts, but of Christ himself. I need to be waiting for Christ.

My prayer for this next month is that as I wait, and endure, and walk through this strange month I would enjoy the things that God places before me. And as I wait I pray that I would become more and more eager to see Christ. The parade may have ended with Santa, but our lives begin when we see Christ. This month of Advent I am waiting for Christ. May he come and display his glory well for me to see.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6–9, ESV)