The season of Advent is upon us. Advent, which means coming in Latin, invites us to slow down and actively wait with great anticipation for the birth of Christ. The rhythm of Advent draws us closer to God in hope, preparation, joy, love, and through the presence of Christ Himself.
In the midst of the holiday season, we are also reminded – through daily headlines and through our care for and connection to others – that we live in a world of profound brokenness. With more than 153 million children that have lost one parent and 18 million that have lost both, the challenges these children face around the world present a solemn reality. In the midst of this brokenness, orphans and vulnerable children often become even more susceptible to further vulnerabilities. In this heaviness we wait. We wait for the hope of the world, the One that binds the brokenhearted, and redeems all things (Isaiah 61).
The birth of Christ came at a time of turmoil and violence. As the Messiah was born, the Massacre of Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18) was at the center of Israel’s history. However, it was into this very darkness that Christ was born, a bright hope when all hope seemed lost. Incarnation. Emmanuel. God with us. In the midst of the darkest night, God showed up. In the most vulnerable and humble of ways, as a child in the midst of poverty and turmoil, God showed up. In a similar way, God shows up in our work around orphan care too. As the hands and feet of Christ, He shows up in you and me…as individuals, churches, students and organizations actively engaging in orphan care.
You or your church may be seeking to partner with a church overseas. Maybe you’ve recently started learning more through prayerful study and research on best practice in orphan care, or perhaps you’ve been engaged in this work for some time. Some of you may be in the middle of the adoption process, or joining others in navigating the path of transition from institutional care to community and family-based care.
Wherever you are in your journey, we are all waiting and longing for something greater. We wrestle with deep brokenness and yet through faith and with hopeful hearts, we taste and anticipate full restoration. This is the Kingdom of God, which is already here, but not yet in its fullness. We experience hope when we hear stories of children reuniting with their families, caregivers empowered to sustain their own families, and in the implementation of solid principles and best practices between community-based organizations and church partnerships. There is a great need for full redemption, but we rejoice in the work God has done and is doing, for this is the Kingdom of God in Advent, even when it’s as small as a mustard seed. And we continue to actively wait.
In the waiting there is created space for preparation, for growth and celebration. In this unique pause, we are invited to slow down and pay attention to the ways God is actively working in our world. In the waiting we become more aware of our need for a Savior, the world’s need for a Savior, for hope and redemption (Psalm 27). But even in the waiting we have the promise of His presence.
Emmanuel. God with us. This Advent, take heart and remember God is writing a story in the family and life of each orphan and vulnerable child. Full redemption is coming. He’s bringing light into the darkness. The waiting isn’t easy, but the star of hope beckons us from all great distances and in all circumstances – whether in doubt, confusion, tiredness, or turmoil. In the waiting, we come to experience the joy of the Light that darkness cannot overcome. To our friends and community, be encouraged to hope with great anticipation because as Wendell Berry said on a dark rainy December day, “It gets darker and darker and then Jesus is born.”
The injustice you’ve seen and heard, the poverty that drives stories of broken families…this is not the finality. God is actively working and calls us to do the same as Christians. Keep watch and prepare for this coming, the Advent promise. For this waiting isn’t passive and stagnant. This is active waiting that helps us prepare for the coming King and participate in ushering in the Kingdom of God. “But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). It is good news for all people. He is making all things new, Christ the King.