Do We Know the God We Wait For?

The Saviour isn't always who we expect him to be.

We’re making cards from construction paper, gluing sparkly balls and pipe cleaner-bows, my hand cupping theirs as we trace out Merry Christmas. “Peace on Earth” plays over the speakers. 

My sons are too little to know of protests in Hong Kong, of wildfires, of the nuclear arms race. Their world consists of this oval kitchen table. It consists of Mommy’s hands on theirs and strawberry milk in sippy cups and Christmas music and dancing in the living room. Their world smells like wood shavings from the logs Daddy cuts to feed the stove; it smells like homemade bread and clean laundry.

But they have old-soul eyes.

They have the souls of a thousand years which peer out the window at a world made of light and shadows, and I know they see it all. They feel it all, in their young bones. A world waiting with bated breath for its Saviour.

Waiting all year long
We feel it, don’t we? With every death. With every disappointment, every pink slip, every call from the hospital, every ache and every pain: this longing for home. For heaven. This need for a Saviour.

And each year we put a word to it: Advent. But really, we’re waiting all year long, every day, for the return of a Christ whose birth we try to understand through crèches and candlelight services. For a Christ whose very life was a parable, whose Spirit dwells amongst us. Who is it that we wait for? 

As my sons peer through the window, at the sunrise, at the sunset, I know their spirits are searching for the star: the one every wise man seeks, the one which leads us not 2,000 years into the past, but rather into the now, into what it means to know the Christ child. This is eternal life, Scripture tells us – to know him. This, a life we can have right now. We wait for heaven, even as heaven waits for us, here in this very moment, in the breath of Mary’s son.

The stranger
The kingdom of heaven is in the grip of a small child’s hand. In the gasp of a beggar’s plea, in the prayer of a widow’s lips, in the tears of a lonely orphan. Oh, that we would see the Christ in each one of us. The Christ in the protestors’ faces, and in the faces of the police. The Christ in those who have lost their homes to fire. The Christ behind prison bars. The Christ who looks nothing like the shiny-haired figurine in the movies or the paintings, and everything like the stranger we ignore.

I was standing in church, one Sunday, my palm lifted, the other wrapped around my three-year-old. I stood in worship, tears rolling down my cheeks during “I Surrender All,” a song which guts me wide. 

And in the excavation, I see him – my eyes still closed. Jesus. And he looks like a man without a home, dressed in rags, torn and dirty, his hair matted, his beard long and scraggly, his eyes – kind. The Son of God, as a homeless man. “Would you worship me if I looked like this?” he asked. 

Do we know the God we wait for? Is it a babe wrapped in a fuzzy cloth, lying in a manger? Or the Son of God – who takes every preconceived notion about the Saviour and tosses it from the synagogue in righteous anger? 

May God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth – as it is in heaven. This Advent Season. 


  • Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of a non-profit working in Africa and Asia.

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