The Tension in Advent

[7] Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. [8] You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:7–8)

I’ve become convinced the tension in Advent is healthy. What do you think?

The tension of Advent is best illustrated by Advent prayers. Century after century during Advent Christians have prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are asking our Lord to swiftly return so “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) 

Yet in our passage James exhorts us to remain patient about the Lord’s coming. We are to emulate farmers, waiting patiently for precipitation. The rain will come.

What do we do with this tension?

I find it helpful that the Apostle Peter gives us a reason to be patient. When challenged about Jesus’ supposedly being slowing in returning, Peter wrote this: 

[9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

We are being patient not only for ourselves, but for others. Their eternal fate rests in the balance. God desires all to come to faith in Jesus, receive the forgiveness of their sins, and join God the Father’s forever family.  

The tension of Advent is healthy because both poles are godly. It is godly to desire Jesus’ to return soon. It is godly to be patient, for the sake of those who do not yet know Christ. 

(Based on the Three-Year Lectionary, A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)


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