Second Friday of Advent: The Truest Truth

By Byron Borger

Advent Devotional | December 9, 2022

Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

—Isaiah 9:7 (
Read Isaiah 9)

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

“The kingdom of the world has become
    the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
    and he will reign for ever and ever.”

—Revelation 11:15 (
Read Revelation 11)

In the 1970s, I worked in ministry at the campus of what was then called Penn State McKeesport. We had a handful of fabulous students, both churched and unchurched, Christian and not.

All of us were young and most of us—perhaps myself most obviously—knew not what we were doing. 

It was a friendly bunch, mostly from run-of-the-mill families, some literally from the steel mill town whose furnaces lined the Monongahela River. I was shocked to see the bright flames shooting out of the industrial chimneys, but my wife, who grew up amidst those same sights and smells, with a similar crew of blue-collar, multiethnic kids, was not.

In any case, we tried to teach the fellowship group on campus to hope well, to long for the renewal of all things, to begin to live now as if the Kingdom was actually here, even if it was yet to come more fully.

They were a fun group, but I longed for them to mature into somewhat sophisticated folk who could integrate their faith and studies. For our young students, most of whom were the first from their families to go to college, it was challenging to think deeply about the things that mattered most.

I am not sure how much of that took hold for most, and I have regrets about those years, but one annual event stands out. It was a venue for the practice of hope, a special occasion which underscored the beauty of Advent waiting and bore witness to the coming renewal for which we hoped. 

Every December, we visited Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh for a performance of Handel's Messiah

We tried to make it a big deal, hosting a dinner in the exquisitely appointed church parlor. My wife, Beth, made lovely menus and photocopied them, in these days before personal computers. We encouraged students to dress up and we chauffeured them to the hall. It was our group’s own night out, a very special occasion.

And here is the quiet truth, an awareness just shy of surprise, a sentiment we had hoped for, but yet never fully dared to believe—the words of the prophets that shape the text of Messiah are extraordinary. Encountering Scripture in this heightened atmosphere somehow worked its magic. 

The horrific realities of sin and exile, the promise of return, and the possibilities of a new Jerusalem, of a safe home, were striking.

To see this hope as fulfilled in Jesus, the oratorio helped us appreciate—year by year—the remarkable scope and grit of the promise.

When Beth, myself, and many of these same students attended the Jubilee conference just a few months after hearing the Messiah, we received a surprise. The speaker ended his message with a ringing cavalcade of words, not of his own, but from the grand Bible story we knew so well. 

“And the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our God. And He shall reign forever and ever.” 

With those words, music began to play, and suddenly, the Jubilee hotel ballroom with James Ward banging out gospel piano and the Pittsburgh Symphony playing the baroque obligatos blended together as we rejoiced that the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our God.

He indeed shall reign. Forever and ever.

In Christ, this socio-political expectation of real restoration is said to be true; indeed it is the truest truth of the universe. During Advent, we learn to wait, abide, and hunger for it to be made real.

And so we continue to pray: Come, Lord Jesus!

—Byron Borger, along with his wife, Beth, own and operate Hearts & Minds, an independent Christian bookstore in Dallastown, Pennsylvania, which they have run for four decades. Before opening their bookstore, they worked in campus ministry for the CCO in McKeesport and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.