Advent is just as much about remembering as it is about anticipating. We can rest assured that God will be faithful again because of his faithfulness in the past.
After two chapters of Habakkuk’s wondering and questioning, we see him make a switch in chapter three, called “Habakkuk’s Prayer.” He begins to recall victories and miracles God had done in the past, from making the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12) to parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14).
Recalling these past demonstrations of God’s faithfulness didn’t take away his current doubts nor change his current circumstances. But they led him to a pivotal, two-word conclusion – even if.
Even if the fig tree does not bud and all feels dead around me. Even if the olive crop fails and it feels like my striving and hard work is for nothing. Even if there are no sheep in the pen and I don’t know if I’ll have enough for the next day. Even if, even if, even if… God is still worthy of my rejoicing.
In the course of three chapters, we see Habakkuk’s “how long” turn into “even if” – thus changing his perspective from one of questioning and doubting to one of trusting and surrendering.
Ann Voskamp in her Advent devotional The Greatest Gift (could not recommend enough!) explains this shift like this: “The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not on the fears.”
Habakkuk’s circumstances didn’t change overnight and ours likely won’t either. But by turning his focus onto God’s infinite goodness, he was able to say ‘even if… I will rejoice in my Savior.’ Joy was possible in the waiting.
But here’s a final, key distinction we must grasp: Advent is about remembering the past, not living in it. It doesn’t give us permission to always wish for how things used to be. It doesn’t give us an excuse to take for granted what we have in this present moment. If we use Advent to avoid living in the present, we’re missing the point. Advent goes so much deeper than nostalgia.
Advent is about recalling the past to be reassured of the future and to become more trusting, grateful and at peace in the present. We celebrate the past to be reminded of where our hope lies. We remember the past to thank God for all that he’s done and praise him for all he’s going to do – even if.