Sunday, November 27, 2016

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

 It's Advent. Finally. I've been looking forward to this season for weeks, and hoping to do more writing during this time.

To kick it off, something I wrote for a different blog last year:

Expectations. They get us into trouble, or at least leave us with dashed hopes and broken hearts.

I expected that my best friend would remember my birthday. I expected that I’d be married by now. I expected that I’d be able to have children. I expected that my boss would respect me. I expected that my hard work would pay off and I would feel fulfilled. I expected that black and brown lives would matter.

I expected that things would be…different.

Even when expectations seem quite reasonable, they leave us vulnerable, at the mercy of someone else to meet…or not.

A great deal of conflict arises from differences in expectations- among friends, co-workers, family, local and international leaders alike.

God’s people, too, had (and have) expectations that were heart wrenching and conflict inspiring. From the moment Adam and Eve left the Garden, God went before his people, and followed after them, leading and leaving trails of expectation. “Expect me to show up,” he was trying to teach them. It was the beginning of Advent.

I will bless your children and your children’s children. Expect me.

There’s fire in this bush. Expect me.

There’s water in this rock. Expect me.

There’s manna falling from heaven. Expect me.

I rescued you; I will rescue you. Expect me.

I give you this king; I will give you a King. Expect me.

I am your strength, your consolation. Expect me.

I will bring joy to your longing heart. Expect me.

“Expect me,” God whispered for centuries into wandering desert trails, on cliffs and in valleys, in 
palaces and huts, to men and women and children, to the young and the old, the familiar and foreign, the rich and the poor. All of creation was living in Advent- looking for signs of Jesus, feeling vulnerable and impatient, caught between great hope and anxious despair.

Wilderness wandering and high leader turnover taught a stubborn and self-reliant people how to expect God to show up. Faith-filled expectation doesn’t come naturally to them, or me. It’s one thing to expect to be paid on time, or for a good friend to lend a listening ear. It’s quite different to expect the God of the universe to come and fulfill all of my longings, to be the restorer of the whole wide world.

But amidst all the chaos and tenuous promises of the world, we have a God who whispers gently, and sometimes shouts, into our stubborn ears and hearts: expect me! The glory of Advent is that the longing and expecting, the searching and wandering, does end. Jesus comes! (Perhaps not as was expected…those expectations, man, they’re tricky business). God bids us wait, expect, learn to long for him. But not forever. Advent was never meant to last forever. Jesus came! Messy and fleshy from birth to death. He tastes our sadness. We taste his glory.

It encourages me that the impulse to long for a world more beautiful, more peaceful, more just, more healthy is not simply childish discontentment; instead, it is living a life of Advent hope. God’s final word to us isn’t “wait, hold on” it’s “I’m here, come in.” I’m not always sure what exactly I’m expecting when I long for the end of our current Advent, for a time when Jesus returns and shalom invades and reclaims the earth. The Advent of Christmas tells me that expecting Jesus, now and one day more fully, is the surest and most glorious expectation I can have.

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