So, I have had some interesting conversations this week about this season of Advent and how it affects me, and others I have been talking to. Let me start with an image from the prophet Isaiah
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
When Bill and I were married, we moved right after our honeymoon, to Chicago so that he might begin his Master’s/PhD work. We moved from San Diego, and when it snowed on Halloween our first year, I kept threatening to move back to San Diego until he was done with school. Anyway, snow in Chicago can last a very long time, sometimes into May. I had grown quite fond of San Diego weather, so those winters were long, dark, and cold. What I appreciated about Chicago, was that even if there was still snow on the ground, right around the middle of April, a wonderful thing happened… crocus would begin their journey out of the cold ground. You would often see these lovely purple crocus blossoms against the snow proclaiming that Spring was coming, days were getting longer, and the time of waiting would be over. As I watched those blossoms struggle to be free every year, it occurred to me that like me, they were longing to be warm and in the sunshine. It was this longing, I think that allowed them to burst forth from the earth, despite the snow and cold. The longing gave them purpose and direction; they reached toward the sun that would warm and nourish them, no matter what went on around them…
As I was talking to a friend this past week, he said something similar about Advent… that during this time, we might be in cold and darkness about what’s next for us. He described Advent as a season of longing, a season of reaching toward God.
It makes sense to me. In this season we watch and wait for the second coming of Christ… we believe that on that day, our waiting and our longing will be fulfilled as the world becomes the place where God’s kingdom is realized by all people. Scripture is filled with images of the longing of God’s people…longing that seeks relationship with God and the ending to human suffering.
There is only one answer to the longing we all feel, and that one Jesus. Whether we find ourselves looking toward his second coming, or living into the joy of his first coming, Jesus is the light which we seek in the darkness. So many people find themselves adrift this time of year; broken dreams, broken relationships, impossible expectations…that is what we find ourselves up to against if we forget who God is or why we come to this place week after week to be fed… prayer, worship, scripture, the sacrament of Eucharist… these are the ways that we approach God, these are the ordinary things that tell us who Jesus is and help to heal our own brokenness and answer the deep longing of our hearts and souls. In Mary’s great song, we hear that the promise of God’s love and action for God’s people has been fulfilled. Like the prophets before her, Mary proclaims freedom to the captives and justice to the poor… the great longing of God’s people has been answered by God in the incarnation where God has broken through the barriers between human and divine to become one of us… and as John the Baptist hears what Jesus is doing, the longing inside him speaks out loud…”are you the one?” John’s whole life was dedicated to preaching about the kingdom of God and the coming of the messiah, God’s chosen… and now he realizes that the fulfillment of the prophecies has come…at least he hopes so. And the answer to his question? Tell John what you see…God is acting in human history…God has entered human history in Jesus and the lame walk…prophecy is being fulfilled…longing has met its answer, the only answer that makes sense.
It is the same for you and me. We know there is a deep ache within the us, a longing that we have tried to fill with all kinds of empty things. The crocus knows instinctively that it needs sunshine to survive, and at its most vulnerable state, it manages to push through the harsh environment around it…Advent, this time of waiting, is a time for us to be vulnerable, to reach toward Jesus is all that we do… in our prayers, in receiving him here at this table, in our looking for and finding him in others… we must let our longing for him make us single minded in reaching for him regardless of what might try to stop us…and our Lord knows there is much that might try to stop us, some of which is of our own making.
Mary was able to let her longing for God allow her to reach beyond earthly possibilities to become the mother of the Savior of the world. What might we be allowing to get in our way of a loving relationship with Jesus? How is it stopping us from reaching beyond this often frozen world to be who God has truly created us to be? How might we reach beyond our own limited ideas to be Christ bearers to a world, or a neighborhood, that needs to know Jesus?
May our vulnerability and our longing guide us toward Jesus who is the only fulfillment of our longing and our emptiness.
Let us pray together our collect from this morning (pg. 212)
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.