Advent: waiting for the miracle to come

I don't know how many thousands of people were in the British Museum in London the day we visited.

It was late July, and in the cavernous entry room of the museum the crowd was large and noisy. I looked at the signs pointing in every direction for various exhibits and wonders to see, I heard the buzz of people speaking a dozen different languages and then... it all stopped.

It was quiet. Movements around me crept to slow-motion speed. There it was, right in front of me. The Tree of Life.

I had read about it, even described it in a sermon once. The Tree of Life was made by artists from the war-torn country of Mozambique. Constructed out of metal, you might glance at it and notice nothing more than the fact that the old metal pieces were put together in the shape of a tree.

But, on closer inspection, the pieces of metal stops you in your tracks. Grenades. Pistols. Mines. Chains. Machine guns. All were so rusted the color seemed to drip from one item to the next. They were real, too. They had been collected from houses and roadsides, and dug up by plows trying to plant crops and restore some semblance of civility to a land that recently has known only the pain of civil war and death.

I can't articulate everything that I felt as I stood frozen in front of the tree. Sad. Angry. Moved.

I had this desire, this urging for something different, a different world in which people made different choices. I wanted things to be a whole lot closer to the way God apparently had intended them to be from the beginning. I had a sense of nostalgia for, as the Christian author C.S. Lewis says, "the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."

Advent* seems to me to be a time for such new beginnings. We get hints. We wait. We celebrate something that has already happened and hear the beauty of the story unfolding - a story that culminates, surprisingly, in what seems nothing more than the birth of a baby into the world.

The child, of course, grows, and does far more than shape some rusty weapons into a tree of peace. Jesus' ordeal - his climb to a tree of death and emergence out of a tomb of darkness - allows people back into the presence of God. People like us.

The world is totally changed, and yet not changed. The scents and echoes and bits of news that became manifest in Jesus are more than enough, yet we wait for more that is still to come. Another entrance, another coming, at which event the whole world - not just a crowd at a museum -will freeze in amazement. Everything will finally be put right. Come, Lord Jesus.

Dan Baumgartner is senior pastor at Bethany Presbyterian Church on Queen Anne. This article is reprinted with permission from the Bethany Briefs publication.

*The word "Advent" means "coming" or "arrival." It is the season on the church calendar leading up to Christmas. Traditionally, at this time Christians look back to something which has already happened-the birth of Jesus-and also look ahead to something which has not happened: the second coming of Christ.[[In-content Ad]]