Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Waiting & Longing: Advent Reflection (Part 2 of 5)

Every Advent season, we experience the rebirth of hope. Heavenly longing fulfilled in humble Christ child.

The longing of Advent is not our own. Before it belonged to boys and girls waiting to unveil their presents, it belonged to lonely, exiled Israel. God’s people awaited their ransom and their Redeemer.

They waited a long time. Decades compiled into centuries. But they did not wait idly for this Advent.  Priestly families, religious sects, sacred scrolls, and apocryphal books filled the vacuum. Their longing for Advent—God’s arrival—produced competing brands of isolation, fanaticism, legalism, Hellenism, and mysticism. They became more partisan than patient. They strove to construct God’s kingdom rather than receive it.

We should not be surprised; waiting patiently does not come easily to us. We have bought the myth that it is better to construct a kingdom than receive one. We bury our spiritual longings with religious doings. We do not wait idly for God to appear.

But longing requires waiting. Waiting demands patience. Patience is the virtue we rarely pray for because God’s ironic answer to this prayer is an opportunity to wait. And in our waiting, longing either stretches to a sharp point and pierces us with grief, or dwindles to a dull end and dies.

Some of us tire of waiting and pursue vain pleasures. Some of us chaff and become bitter. Advent proposes an alternative: wait patiently, expectantly, joyously. “For unto us a child is born and a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). 
Heavenly Father sent Incarnate Son. The first Advent assures a second one.

“Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel. Shall come to us: All longings to fulfill.”
I originally composed this Advent reflection for Leesburg Grace, my church family, as part of a Christmas Communion celebration. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel inspired the thematic focus on waiting and longing.

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