Advent is a time of waiting for Jesus’ coming. As we remember and look forward to Christ’s first coming, we also look forward to his second coming and the full realization of the kingdom of God. That the kingdom of God has not fully arrived can be seen in the evil and brokenness in the world around us.
Advent is a time when the church can lament and rage against the brokenness of a world where suffering, sickness and death are so prevalent. We are given room to be both heartbroken and angry about hatred, cruelty, violence and injustice. This creates in us longing for Christ to come back and set all things right. At the same time, it opens our eyes to how Christ’s first coming has already brought the first fruits of the kingdom to earth. Sin and evil do not have the last word.
When contemplating brokenness, hatred and injustice in the world today, all of us in the United States can hardly ignore what has been happening around Ferguson. There has been loss of life, much violence, riots, tremendous fear, anger, pain, destruction, and heartbroken cries. The questions asked in response are often: What is right and good? Where is justice? We analyze and choose sides, talking about the situation in a way that puts us on the ‘right side.’ In so doing, we can forget all the hurting people on so many different possible sides.
There is much brokenness surfacing as a result of what has happened in Ferguson (and in New York). Our society is filled with violence, as shown by the high number of gun-related deaths both of police officers and by police officers. Instead of gracious hospitality and caring, fear and distrust too often characterize our relations with others, especially those different from us. Stories of racism abound. All of this proclaims loudly the need for the coming of the kingdom that will bring true justice and the kind of deep caring for the other that is missing in today’s world.
The despair and longing inherent to Advent is answered, at least partly, in Christ’s first coming at Christmas. The kingdom has been ushered in and, even though it is not fully here, glimpses of it can be found now already: e.g., peaceful protests advocating that things change and hope that we learn to listen to each other and act for change.