Thursday, December 17, 2009

BEN : I need the Advent. . . .

I need the Advent.

And the timing couldn't have been better! The anticipation of what was happening and what to expect that came as a direct result of our "pause" in conversation placed us in a very familiar position this Advent season, the time in which we must patiently wait and carefully search for the coming Messiah yet again.

One of my favorite parts of this time of year is the hymn "O come, O come, Emmanuel." The words drip with tragedy and expectation, defeat and hope. I wait all year to have permission to experience these haunting words again.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

How appropriate to think of myself as captive? If I was not a salve to something, then the coming Messiah is somehow less than what I suspect it was received that first Christmas. "Captivity"..."exile"..."shall come." These are the ingredients with which God uses to create a bridge to something that if we are not careful, we will miss completely.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

"Victory." Beyond the Christmas story lies the life of Christ, his passion, death, and resurrection. As I wait with all the hope and expectation a homeless person might for shelter or a hungry child for food, I am reminded that bitterness is only part of the story. The other part is much better but can only be experienced in balance with the other.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

The two most vulnerable times in our lives are when we are born and when we die. There is little we can do to intervene on both outside the grace of the One Who gives and takes away life. Death comes to us, too, when we forget to breath in rhythm with the One Who first breathed into us. Anticipation causes us to pay attention, awake from our slumber, and participate in making what will be forever, a present reality today.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Rejoice. We've sung it every stanza now, but it seems to jump off the page as we talk about our "heavenly home" and "the way that leads on high." We have much to experience in the world to come. Yet we have glimpses of what is to come now. It's in the innocence of a child's love, the faithfulness of a spouses support, and the compassion of receiving God's gift in the form of a human child. Yes, rejoicing is an appropriate response.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

The are two dimensions to the Advent: reliving the coming Messiah as a baby and the knowledge that one day he will come again but in a much different way. The challenge is not to find the "signs of the times" in current events but to carefully observe the face of God among his creation and to open our eyes to his presence already abundantly clear.

For me, "O come, O come, Emmanuel" is a renewed invitation from my soul to the presence of the One Who waits patiently for me to ask Him to come and dwell within me. It is in the waiting that I find the Messiah and will rejoice.

This is why I need the Advent.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

ROBERT : I have been away some . . . .

I have been away some, but I have been listening even so, to you and to others. I was away on the road for a bit, and then away because I have not been as well as I would like. Then away for a rest in the sun.
So I was away when your note came, the one you sent to me at the beginning of this Advent that is upon us. It was the note that reminded me that it was time once again to begin our annual wait for the coming of the Messiah. I was away when the note came, but I heard you.
I began to hear something else as well, in the listening, in the time away. So I wrote it down.

We wait in the dark and the silence of this season

We wait because
it is what those who came before us taught us to do
It is what those who stand beside us do
and we do not want to be left alone or left out

We wait because were taught this Story
by those who loved us well
Our love for them requires that we wait alongside them
even those we love yet no longer see
And we wait because of those who are now given to us to love
The love we were given and are now to give
calls us to keep this vigil

We wait because we believe the Promise will be kept again
That is the part of us that is the most childlike and the most real
We wait in the hope that the Love that we seek may yet be found

We wait because sometimes waiting is all one can do
in the midst of the noise and the clamor of our lives
In the silence and the darkness that is bound to come to us all
even if it is unbidden or unnamed or unacknowledged

God is with us as we watch
for the One Who is to come among us
God is with us in the silence
as we listen for the Hosannas to ring out
God is with us in the dark
while we hope for the Light of the world
God is with us always in our waiting

So we wait in the dark and the silence of this season
The wait will be over soon