I recently had an experience that brought this into new light for me. I’d placed an order online, and received the emailed notification: “Your package has shipped!” In the grand scheme of things it’s a pretty trivial thing to wait for a cardboard box to show up on your doorstep. Still, the week between that automated promise in my inbox and the expected delivery date was punctuated with small moments of anticipation.
Finally the delivery date came. And went.
The joy and frustration of modern technology are contained so well in the string of numbers and letters that allow us to track packages as they move—or don’t. This time, the status alternated between “out for delivery” and something more frustratingly nonspecific: “in transit.”
Those two words—in transit—carry the hope and frustration of this season. Perhaps we’re the ones in between: between being a child and being a parent, between jobs or churches, between who we were and who we’re becoming. Maybe we feel like we’re finally in the right place, but the things we expected to be there haven’t arrived yet. Something’s still missing. Something’s in transit.
And so we wait.
Advent doesn’t tell us precisely the date that we can expect to see God show up in our lives, the time and place our hope will arrive. Even in the Christmas story, hope is wrapped up in displacement and God makes his home with us even as Mary and Joseph are far from home. But Advent reminds us of something important.
Advent testifies that our hope is not confined to a delivery date. It’s not in a cardboard box, whatever its contents and however well-wrapped. Our hope may be in transit, but it’s not lost or misplaced. When delivery dates recede into the past, when our eagerness is replaced by restlessness, and when anticipation gives way to exhaustion, we light a candle and keep waiting.
Advent promises us this in our waiting: because of Jesus, we know and believe that God is the one who comes. We see God in Christ, not as a cosmic wish-granter or inspirational figure, but as the One who comes to us in transit. We put our faith in Jesus, the delivered and the deliverer.
Advent invites us to remember. Whether our time in transit feels joyful or weary, we remember that our hope is in Christ: the God who comes.