December 10, 2006

advent

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3

The season of Advent has always been one of my favorite times of the Christian year. Perhaps its because the underlying theme of the season – the longing and expectation of the true Light coming to the rescue of a world shrouded in evil and darkness – so mirrors the actualities of the secular “holiday season”. The ever-darkening days preceeding the Winter Solstice, and the incessant, ever-cynical messages of “peace on earth” and “Happy Holidays!” communicated in a world where there is, and never has been, any peace, and happiness is increasingly measured by the size and amount of one’s possessions.

Even with that, every year I still find my own heart desiring to welcome Advent with a renewed spirit of hope and the desire to make something positive out of it. Call me misguided or just a sucker for punishment, but I think it’s important to spiritually embrace the widening chasm between the world as it is and what it could be in a spirit of meditation, contemplation, and prayer – and, through them, do my own small part to live out the hope and expectation that exemplifies what Advent is all about.

Dennis Bratcher at CRI/Voice has a fine article that puts Advent’s spirit of hope, longing, and expectation into its proper Biblical perspective:

Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and now anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.

Part of the expectation also anticipates a judgment on sin and a calling of the world to accountability before God. We long for God to come and set the world right! Yet, as the prophet Amos warned, the expectation of a coming judgment at the “Day of the Lord” may not be the day of light that we might want, because the penetrating light of God’s judgment on sin will shine just as brightly on God’s people.

One of the great contradictions of the season, I think, for those of us who call ourselves Christians is what the reality of this “coming to set the world right” and God’s “penetrating light of judgment” might mean for each of us individually. Knowing myself and my own obvious faults, frailities, and weaknesses, I’m not so sure I’d be treated kindly by that penetrating light, or, for that matter, if deep down I want the world to be set right. I mean, what does that mean? What if there’s a part of me, thousands of miles away from Iraq, or Darfur, or North Korea, or any other God-forsaken, miserable corner of this globe, that in some unforgiveable way, likes my world as it is? Even while aware that I’m one of the most fortunates in a world beset with suffering? Would God Himself accept such brute honesty?

At least I know that, looking back through history, I’m not alone in such ponderings. Contemplating the often less-than-perfect characters of the Old Testament through whom God worked wonders ages ago (and, I would hasten to add, some in the New Testament as well), Bratcher articulates the hope of the season thus:

“It never ceases to amaze me why God could not have chosen “better” people to do His work in the world. Yet if God can use them, and reveal Himself through them in such marvelous ways, it means that He might be able to use me, inadequate, and unwise, and too often lacking in faith that I am. And it means that I need to be careful that I do not in my own self-righteousness put limits on what God can do with the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of circumstances. I think that is part of the wonder of the Advent Season.”

Indeed. A blessed and hopeful Advent Season to all from Goodboys Nation weblog.

—-

The Anchoress (one of my favorite bloggers) has also been contemplating Advent – from a different angle – and, as usual, it’s well worth reading. Enjoy!

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:06 | Comments (0)
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