Are we there yet?
December 22, 2021
Twenty-five years ago, in 1996, I was a sophomore at Linfield College (now Linfield University) with my first email address and using Netscape as the preferred browser. MapQuest launched as a brand-new website, where you could enter in an address and print off directions to where you needed to go—handy for college students heading into downtown Portland, Oregon, on a Friday night to hang out at Powell’s Bookstore (yes, I was that kind of teenager). For me at nineteen, the future was already at hand. Instead of trying to figure out streets on maps and flipping around an atlas, I now had step-by-step directions to my destination.
In twenty-five years, much has changed. A few years after MapQuest, GPS devices became readily available on the market. Not many years later, most of us had GPS available on our smartphones, and now we have traffic apps to help us avoid accidents, construction, and even speed traps. Decades of using road atlases were wiped away with a few years of technological advancements. No longer do we ask for directions—we just need the address.
Advent is the season of watching and waiting for signs of Christ’s return in our world and in our lives in a new way. While the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures may have prophesied about a shoot rising from the stump of Jesse, a few hundred years later no one was expecting God’s Anointed One to arrive as he did, to a young unwed mother engaged to a carpenter of no consequence. Later Christians, reading Isaiah, found passages concerning a young woman who conceived and bore a child, a Savior born for us. Those passages, referring to the birth of King Hezekiah during Isaiah’s time, were not associated with the Messiah until after Jesus’ birth. The early Christians searched the Hebrew scriptures for passages that related to what they knew of Jesus, to the point it’s hard for us now to miss the signs. In Matthew 2:1-12, Herod and the scribes of Jerusalem didn’t know the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. It wasn’t until after Jesus was born and the magi came searching for the newborn king that they found scriptures that told of Bethlehem as the birthplace of the One to shepherd Israel.
This Advent, may we recognize that Christ is already among us, already at work. We are called to proclaim it: a child has been born for us, a son given to us; Emmanuel, God is with us. God is still with us. We already know the address. The world, however, is still using outdated methods to find its way. The world is still recalculating. There is still injustice, oppression, violence, suffering, and fear—much as in the time Jesus was born—but we know the way. We have the Good News. The journey isn’t complete, but in our faith in Christ, we have arrived at our destination. Christ is among us, now and always.
As much as technology has changed these last twenty-five years, so our understanding of Scripture has changed over two thousand years. We are still waiting. We are looking at our maps and directions and watching and waiting for the signs, but perhaps our methods are outdated. What if, instead of looking outward, we ought to turn to each other? If we are the body of Christ on earth, perhaps Christ is already at work in us, in the hope, peace, joy, and love we share, and in the justice and mercy we practice. As we wait expectantly for the birth of the Christ child during Advent, perhaps we are called to live as if Christ has already returned and the reign of God is at hand.
I wonder if, instead of asking for directions and looking at our atlases, we might just need the address of the destination: God with Us. Instead of waiting for life after death, perhaps we ought to recognize that eternity is now, receiving the new life Christ has offered us. In our baptism, we die and rise with Christ; therefore, eternal life has already begun.
This Advent may we recognize that Christ is already among us, already at work. We are called to proclaim it: a child has been born for us, a son given to us: Emmanuel, God is with us. God is still with us. We already know the address. The world, however, is still using outdated methods to find its way. The world is still recalculating. There is still injustice, oppression, violence, suffering and fear—much as in the time Jesus was born—but we know the way. We have the Good News. The journey isn’t complete, but in our faith in Christ, we have arrived at our destination. Christ is among us, now and always.
Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell is pastor of Queen Anne Baptist Church, Seattle, Washington, and ministry associate of social media for the Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches USA.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.