The Already But Not Yet, Second Sunday of Advent 2023
Written by Kyle Cristofalo, CMEP’s Senior Director of Advocacy and Government Relations and Special Advisor to the Executive Director
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. (2 Peter 3:8-9a)
What does it mean to wait ‘in earnest’? The author of 2 Peter wrote to a community seemingly confused by what seemed a long wait for Jesus’ return. In earlier verses in Peter chapter 3, the author mentions the “scoffers” in the community sowing division, apparently taunting Jesus’s followers by questioning why he had yet to fulfill his promise to return. But the Epistle writer turns this line of thinking on its head: “Do not ignore the fact, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years…” This passage reminds us God’s timing and the human conception of time are not always aligned. From this reading, might we also remember the importance of living in the in-between.
What does this mean for us today? Maybe, like me, you’re tired of waiting for things to be made right. Each day, we wake to news of more pain. Another Palestinian child is detained or killed. Another Palestinian home is demolished. Where is God in the midst of such destruction and despair? How much longer must we wait?
In 2 Peter, the author encourages the community to set aside questions about the future and instead consider their own conduct in the present moment. “What sort of persons ought you to be,” the author writes, “in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the Lord…while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish.” Though written long ago in a context very different than many find ourselves in now, the question is still relevant for us to ponder today: What sort of person should we be in the face of ongoing injustice as we wait for things to be made right? How can we lead lives of holiness and godliness even as the ongoing deteriorating conditions in Israel/Palestine might make us want to close our eyes or turn and look away?
Isaiah reminds us that with God’s promised return, “every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low, and the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” (Isaiah 40:4). In this in-between time—the already but not yet—we are invited to help “prepare the way of the Lord.”
How do we prepare? This waiting in the in-between might manifest differently for each of us, but I am confident that waiting requires continued work for justice, even when the current situation feels beyond repair. If you have a pulpit, maybe that means preaching about Palestine to welcome others into the long, winding road toward justice. Or writing a letter to the editor for your local publication. Or setting up a meeting with your elected officials to advocate on behalf of peace and justice for all in Israel/Palestine. Whatever form it takes, it will require a steadfast spirit—one that doesn’t give up even if the hoped-for outcome seems way beyond reach. One must continually walk toward justice, even if the way is unmarked and feels long; we must all join together in the in-between. One day, as the Psalmist writes, “righteousness and peace will kiss.” In the meantime, in this Advent season of anticipation where we await the arrival of the Prince of Peace, may we do all in our power to prepare the way of the Lord by working for peace and justice within our communities and the world.
Prayer by Erikka Hedberg, Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) CMEP Board Representative
As you reflect on the concept of waiting and living in the in-between, we invite you to pray the words of the prayer below. Allow space in the prayer for stillness and silence.
Lord God, Elohei Mishpat – God of Justice – we come to you with hearts yearning for the day when “every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low, and the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.”
As we wait for this day, we ask for reminders of your presence in the midst of despair, that we won’t shy away from the tension of seeking you in the “in-between.” Grant us each courage to step into opportunities to pursue justice in our world – in our local communities, the country in which we live, and even across the globe. Help us to consider and advocate for others, in big and small ways, because each is dearly beloved by You.
Elohei Mishpat – God of Justice – in these days of Advent, we pray for eyes to see and ears to hear the invitations from your Holy Spirit to help “prepare the way of the Lord.” Help us be creative and open to ways we can usher in your justice, in all of the world and especially for our sisters and brothers in Israel/Palestine. Give us strength for the journey of justice, and help us to trust in your love and your power, especially in these days of darkness. Lord God, we love You, and we eagerly anticipate Your arrival in our hearts this Advent season. Amen.
About the Author: Kyle Cristofalo is responsible for leading CMEP’s engagement with Congress and the Administration in advance of CMEP’s advocacy priorities. He also helps equip CMEP’s grassroots supporters to engage directly with their Congressional offices. As Head of the DC Office, Kyle liaises with CMEP’s partners in the DC region and across the United States. He holds an undergraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies and a Master of Divinity Degree from Emory University. Kyle was first introduced to Middle East advocacy work during a semester abroad in Cairo, Egypt. After graduating from college, Kyle served ten months with the Mennonite Central Committee in Bethlehem, Palestine, where he was seconded to work with Bethlehem Bible College.