In their celebration of Passover, the Jews keep an empty chair for Elijah, the forerunner of the Messiah. As Christians, we confess that both Elijah and the Messiah have come, and we mark that coming in faith by our participation here, at this table. And so, in a very real sense, this table has no empty chair. Christ has come, and has brought us to sit with Him, and with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with all the Gentiles who are streaming in from east and west.
Now Christ died once for all, and yet we still proclaim His death and resurrection by this meal. Christ was born only once, to his mother Mary, and yet we commemorate this every year in our celebration of Christmas. In the same way, although there is no empty chair of expectation at this Lord’s Table, yet we frame our hearts now to proclaim what that longing was like, before He came. This is the significance of Advent, a season of joyful expectation, full of faith and longing.
When we are solemn on Good Friday it is not because we do not know the end of the story—we most certainly do. And when we long for the coming of the Christ now, it is not because we have forgotten that He already came. We are proclaiming history, telling a story.
God’s people waited patiently in the pre-dawn, longing for sunrise. Now that Christ has come, we tell this story in our calendar so that non-believers around us, who are still living in darkness, may see how they might be included. We summon them urgently—come!
So Advent is not a time where the people of God return to temporary darkness. Rather, it is a time when the entire Christian church, in true evangelical fashion, gives its testimony. “God brought us out of darkness, and into His marvelous light. Here, let us tell you the story.”