Have you ever considered the irony that one of our most beloved Advent prayers is, “Oh come, oh come, God-with-us”? This is, after all, what Emmanuel means: God with us.
God with us. God in human flesh. Jesus the God-man, who paved the path into the presence of God for all humanity.
And yet we cry out to God-with-us, “Come!” We cry in unison with thousands of saints throughout history. This cry comes directly from our Scriptures—though we often forget that the second-to-last sentence in the Bible is, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).
Yet it is our theology, not our Scriptures alone, that must bear the burden of figuring out how we live in the tension of praying for a God-with-us to whom we must pray, “Come!”
Throughout history, the Church has learned and re-learned (we forget so quickly!) that we cannot usher in the Kingdom. Whether through deplorable violence and coercion, misguided political maneuvering, or even beautiful social justice and civil rights movements, we cannot bring the physical Jesus—who breathes, speaks, laughs, weeps, sweats, and even takes a leak—back to Earth. But we can bring the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, into the dark places of this world.
In a world of division and conflict, we are commanded to witness to the reality of King Jesus’ reign through the Holy Spirit among us (Mt 8:19, Acts 1:9). In that way, the Lord who is yet-to-come is simultaneously God-with-us. And the tension in which we live says this is measured by neither “efficiency” nor “effectiveness,” but by faithfulness to Jesus’ Kingdom vision.
May we never accommodate ourselves to the systems of this fallen world to “bring in” the Kingdom. Rather, may we live faithfully and fully right now into the Kingdom vision and continue to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”