Advent begins at the end. The long wait for the Lord to “rend the heavens and come down.” It is a season of remembering the great works of the Lord even as it is a time of crying out for His favor, His healing grace, His coming again. It speaks to the deep longing within our hearts. The deep ache that realizes all is not all right.
For many people, this past year has highlighted the hard truth that all is not all right. At times it seemed as if the nation was splintering at multiple levels simultaneously. Anger in the streets. Fear in the hearts. Sickness in the air. At the same time, these symptoms merely remind us of a world in desperate need of healing, of grace, of shalom.
We cry, “Come Lord Jesus!”
“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Re 22:17).
The Lord has not forsaken us. God is not dead, nor doth He sleeps.
Jesus Christ responds to the cries of His people, “Surely, I am coming soon!”
Advent is a time for watching and waiting for Jesus. Across the ages, the saints of God have watched with hope through good times and bad. From prison cells, from the plague-ridden villages to warring streets of cities and nations in crisis, the people of God have cried out to God. Even so, Lord, come quickly.
I love the spectacle of lights and Christmas songs and holly jollies that surround us throughout Advent. But sometimes, this festivity simply reminds us of a more profound sadness. Listening to the generic seasonal lyrics in the stores feels like celebrating nothing. Emptiness.
Advent doesn’t run from the sadness beneath the thin veneer of the holiday spirit, but it does not give in to despair. In the place of loss and longing, we wake up to the unshakeable promise of God. Fr. Alfred Delp suggested that Advent was like an earthquake jolting us awake to the kingdom of God.
The oddity of this jolt, this terrifying quake, is the encounter with the unspeakable joy of the Lord. We behold glimpses of His promises that cannot, will not be quenched. Fr. Delp was writing about the joy of the Lord while awaiting the Nazi executioners.
In this season that brings together sorrow and joy, may the Lord come afresh and awaken us even as we wait for His final coming. Even as the culture tries to lift its spirit with seasonal shopping, may we discover something even deeper. As G. K. Chesterton writes, “The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.”
Even so, come Lord Jesus.