At the end of November, Marvel Studios finally released their much anticipated Infinity War trailer. In a matter of just a couple of weeks the trailer’s view count is close to one hundred million. For the next several months blogs and YouTube videos will be analyzing the trailer frame by frame to fuel speculation about what might happen in the movie. While I am fairly certain the Marvel movie executives did not consult a church calendar, the timing of the trailer’s release was oddly liturgical. The trailer released right on the cusp of Advent starting. The entire point of a trailer is to build anticipation. It is to surround the movie with a sense of expectation, so that its fans are even more excited for the future when it comes. In Christian life, Advent serves the same purpose.
Advent is a bit of a weird time for most Christians. Most people tend to consider Advent nothing more than “pre-Christmas.” Advent, as it initially emerged in church tradition, is meant to be a unique season in the church. Advent is a season in church life that is to be marked by expectation and anticipation.
The bible is full of expectation. It was with great expectation and anticipation, that the Israelites awaited delivery from Egypt. After a long and painful journey in the wilderness, it was with expectation and anticipation, that the Israelites stood on Mt. Nebo looking to inherit the promise land. Psalm after Psalm is written to evoke deep feelings of longing and expectation for God’s presence and deliverance. The prophets fall just shy of making up half the books in the Old Testament, have page after page filled with expectation and hopeful prophecies pointing to the coming of the messiah. The gospels paint a picture, that at the time of Jesus’ life this anticipation had hit a boiling point. People were expecting the messiah, and they saw the great need for the savior during their life time. After the gospels, the rest of the New Testament manages to still be full of expectation. From the letters of Paul to the letters of Peter to the Revelation of John the language is still full of expectation for what is to come.
For the first Christians, expectation was a big part of their faith. Just like a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan will watched the Infinity War trailer over and over, the early Christians had just as much excitement about what joy the second coming of Jesus would bring. If we are being honest, that sense of wonder, of excitement, and of expectation has kind of been lost. Perhaps it due to the passage of time or just a change of perspective, but “holy expectation” is not a phrase many of us would use to define our faith. It could be that, in part, advent arose in church tradition to help us preserve this. The scriptures and focus of Advent remind us of just what we should be expecting.
The reason why the first Christians were so full of expectation is because they were fully aware of a key theological point in our faith: The Kingdom of God is here but not yet. On Christmas, through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God invaded this world. God set into motion a new age. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, death was defeated, eternal life was offered, and people had the path to be forever reconciled with their Creator. The Kingdom of God had begun, but the old age-the age of sin and death, had not passed away. This is where we still exist. The perfect love, the perfect forgiveness, and the perfect savior are all present and can be experienced. The Kingdom of God is here and now. However, the old age has not passed away. People still suffer. There is still evil and corruption in the world. The early Christians were full of expectation for the day when all of creation would be made new, the old, broken ways of the world would fall way and the kingdom of God will be fully realized.
One of the reasons movie trailers build so much expectation is that they give the fans a glimpse of what to come. It is not a full picture but it gives tantalizing hints for what is in store when the movie drops. It is these glimpses that create the expectation. In the same way we get glimpses of God’s kingdom. We may not be to comprehend the full scope and awesomeness of God’s kingdom, but remember the kingdom of God is both here and not yet. God’s kingdom has not been fully revealed but it is realized in part. When the lost are found, when disadvantaged are cared for, when the forgotten are called by name, when the hopeless find hope, and when the unloved experience love then we get a glimpse of God’s kingdom.
When then disciples of Christ act as the body of Christ, and they are his hands that serve a hurting world, his feet that find a lost world, and his shoulder that comforts a broken world then we get a glimpse of the kingdom of God.
Whenever we humbly put aside our schedules, our biases, and our pride to serve the least of these then we get a glimpse of the kingdom of God. Doing so would cause us to engage the world, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to live out Jesus’ message that the “kingdom of God is near”. All of us could benefit from being more mindful of the actions we take which give us glimpses of the kingdom of God. Because when we take those actions, we will experience in a small part the kingdom of God. When we experience God’s kingdom, we will be filled with expectation about what is to come. And expectation, after all, is what Advent is all about.