But is this not the gift and blessing of Advent? The Sundays that march us to Christmas and the manger are all about a missing father -- the Heavenly Father -- and the God who is determined to rescue those lost to Him. The Son who enters the womb of the Virgin is raised by His mother and a strong and faithful man who is His father figure and guardian. This is the restoration of the family -- the whole human family -- to the God who acts in His full Trinitarian identity to repair the broken and wounded, deprived of their Father Creator and thus their place and purpose in His creation. The ministry of the Son is the ministry of the Father, His words and works are manifested in God's Son in flesh. The direction of His life is to the Father on behalf of those who have been held captive to sin and its death and so live in want of and in fear of this God. He does so not for Himself but for us. We are adopted by baptism into the family of our Father and given His name and the mark of His own possession. We are joined to the obedient life and life-giving death and triumphant resurrection of our Brother and Savior so that we might be His own again. In the manger then is not simply a baby who is God's Son in flesh but the signal of our own rebirth into the family of God. Beloved, we are God's children now. It seems so simple but it is the most profound statement.
Advent is the voice of the Forerunner calling the lost and least, the wounded and wayfaring, the outsider and outcast, as well as those who think themselves right with God. Advent heralds the day when God's House will be a home for all and a house of prayer for all people. Advent begins with a promise and leads to the Magi in whom all the alien nations and foreign peoples enter into the presence of the Son to know the Father aright. And it leads to the baptism in the Jordan where the great exchange takes away our shame and loneliness and puts it upon our Savior so that we might put on His righteousness and find the joy of our restoration to His people and His household, the Church. Perhaps this is an aspect of Advent preaching and teaching that is most needed -- now when so many of the fatherless and alone cry out in bitterness and a world has learned to accept as normal the isolation and fear of others (the Christmas gift COVID has left us).
It is not that without a father we cannot envision the Fatherhood of God but rather from the Fatherhood of God we can envision what fatherhood is -- or is supposed to be. The lack of a father does not make it more difficult to embrace the Heavenly Father but fills the void our earthly fathers failed to fill and does so with heavenly outcome and promise. We are all the prodigals who complained about our homes and suffered every indignity and loss trying to replace it until finally the embrace of our Heavenly Father has healed our broken and wounded hearts and lives. The Son has presented us as His own that we might be the Father's own. That is also what is hidden in Advent for the Church to proclaim.