Questions abound this Advent. The ways of God a conundrum and mystery. The sending of Jesus, a baby, in this nonsensical manner, not exactly what was imagined or anticipated.
I have expectations. Some are lofty, most are low. Children have taught me to hold any expectation loosely, little to none preferred, if they want to stay alive. No expectations, in many situations, far better than dashed ones.
Yet, the arrival of Jesus, this baby, brought forth all kinds of expectations. Hundreds of years’ worth. People waiting, longing for relief in the physical presence and form of God, the Messiah. There were prophecies and assumptions and, I suspect, a multitude of disappointments.
This waiting does that. We conjure notions, suppositions. We wait and wait and wait, expectations directly proportionate to the amount of time spent longing, dreaming. The longer the wait, the greater the expectation level.
Yet, the birth, life and death of Jesus all defied expectation. His birth, humble and mean, simple, not in the cool kind of simple we try to procure, but the gross simple, the undesired simple. The disheveled and grimy simple.
His life of no nobility, other than from the line of David. A carpenter, from Nazareth. What good can come from Nazareth? Who is this person claiming to be the Son of God? And that cousin of his. What’s his name? John? He’s a weirdo.
How is it possible this is our long-awaited, expected Messiah?
The waiting, the longing, the ache. It dwells so deeply. Like an open wound, somedays quiet, other days pulsing and radiating heat. The pressure, the throb shaping my relationships, my interactions, my worth . The present needs. Gross injustice in the world: Black Lives Matter, the refugee crisis, LGBT exclusion, homelessness, rising suicide rates, political rhetoric and fear, mass shootings, hatred of Muslims. All of it bleeds into my hope, slashing my expectation of right and just and good, rendering deep hunger pangs for righteousness.
Yet, I still have joy. How is this? This mystery, the wonder. How does the longing, the waiting, the fear, the angst all contribute to greater joy?
Oftentimes, the longer I wait, through the enduring discomfort, the questions appear to outrun their answers. Yet, is it possible to wait patiently, to be still, to know? Is it possible to wait and trust? The choice is ours, for the work of the surrendered wait only enhances our capacity for Love, Grace, Hope. Jesus.
The waiting may threaten to undo, patience threadbare, a far cry from ideal. Yet I still wait. I know the waiting enlarges, expands, my love. I know the waiting increases the ache, exacerbates the feels, while growing my capacity for good. I know the waiting opens my eyes, allowing me to see deeper into another’s longing, providing the mechanism for compassion, grace far beyond anything I alone can manufacture. Indescribable, impossible joy in the midst of it all.
Jesus shines in our suffering, our questions, our anguish. He shines in our empathy, mercy and compassion. In our fear, denial, judgment – He still shines. In our confession, our forgiveness, our meager attempts at providing relief – He shines ever brighter.
This wait, I now understand, is a call. Nothing can challenge the desires of my heart, reconfigure my dreams, alter my path, as the longing, the standing firm in defiance amongst the mess of my motives, my world, my fear. I know that for which I wait will come. I know who I wait for will come. Emmanuel – God with us. Emmanuel is in us. We shine bright the light and the love of Jesus Christ to the hurting world. We shine bright the hope of Jesus Christ in the desperate world. We shine bright the life of Jesus Christ in the decaying world.
Let us in our wait embrace and hold and trust. Let us in our wait be still and know. Let us in our wait invite the life of Jesus to be born and live in us.
He has come. He is here, dwelling. The ache tells me this.
Let it be so. Let it be unto us.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord: trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, and the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. -Psalm 37