Patience, Presence, Promise

A Last-Minute Advent Meditation

It’s the very end of Advent today, so I’ve more or less missed the window to post this, but thought I’d share it all the same, in hopes that it might be a worthwhile meditation for this Eve of the celebration of Our Lord’s nativity.

It’s a brief devotional I wrote for our church on the Second Coming of Jesus as preached in 2 Peter 3. The Scripture text comes first, followed by the meditation.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Hunters in the Snow (Winter) - Google Art Project.jpg
Hunters in the Snow (Winter) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Oil on Panel, 1565.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen

2 Peter 3:8-18

Even in Peter’s day, just a few decades after the Ascension, Christians were fielding tough questions about the promise of Jesus’ return: “Where’s this judgment you all are on about? Where’s this Jesus you claim is coming back soon? Nothing’s changed, it’s all one day after the other, why bother with this doomsday talk?” 

Some two thousand years later, we feel the questions even more acutely. They become the pained cries of our own hearts: Why does God let this show drag on? All around us, the prosperity of the wicked, rampant injustice against the alien and the widow and the orphan, the decay of our frail and frangible bodies. What’s he waiting for? 

Peter tells us: God isn’t waiting at all. He’s at work. 

The Lord isn’t missing an appointment, his clock isn’t running slow. God is patient for a purpose—he’s busy saving us. 

In fact, he is practicing a divine forbearance; he is every day extending new mercies and adding sheep to the fold (you, believer, included).

Rest assured, the Lord will return. And his Day will arrive in planet-melting power and world-renewing glory. All creation will be his refining fire, and all that is not righteousness will dissolve. It’s a fearsome thing we long for—the vindication of Jesus’ return. We hardly know what we’re asking for (see Amos 5:18).

The comfort we seek in the midst of our waiting comes not in the perceived swiftness of God’s response, but in his proven character.  

We’re waiting on the God for whom not only are a thousand years as one day, but one day is as a thousand years. We’re waiting on a God who is more present to us in a single day—attentive to our longing, bearing our pain, restoring us to life—than we could be in a thousand years. He fits a millennium’s worth of love and forgiveness and patience into each day. God is not only the eternal One in whom all time is relativized, He is also the all-knowing One who is wholly present to us, especially in our moments of need. 

We wait on the God who is making us, in our faithful waiting, more solid and more real in a world that is dissolving. 

Today, when inevitably you find yourself waiting for something—a queue to inch forward, a child to put her shoes on, a diagnosis to arrive, a lasagna to finish baking—find in that very moment an opportunity to thank God for his patience which is your salvation, his presence which is wholly attentive, and his promise which will not pass away.