Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Advent - An Invitation

Like a deer in the snow, Advent softly approaches. As we scurry back and forth between distractions, we are gripped, embraced, enveloped in a season of anticipation. A time for waiting.

And watching.

But how do we watch for the unexpected? Did Zechariah expect Gabriel to interrupt his prayers with a promise of a baby son? As an aging couple how could Zechariah and Elizabeth watch and wait for an end to barrenness? It was impossible.

Could the virgin expect news of a child within her womb? How could she anticipate news of a baby who held the world in his hands coming to life inside of her? It was impossible.

So we watch and wait for what? For what we cannot grasp.

He is coming. And He comes like a surprise.

Like wise virgins with candles lit, we try to peel back the sleep from our weary eyes…and yet, the continuous droning of a world gone wrong lulls us into a dull stupor. We cannot see and we cannot hear.

We grow too dull and too lazy to pause and listen. So we move and move and move and move. We sleep. Awake and move and move and move. Like a junk room piled high, we fill our time with clutter. The tempo of this constant clutter keeps clacking and cracking. The whole world seems to suffer from attention deficit. We cannot listen to one another, we cannot listen to our own heart, and we cannot listen to God.

In the midst of this mad-dash of motion, Advent softly steps into the recesses of our heart. A cool breeze whispers: He is coming.

Like a mouse on a wheel, the world races faster and faster and faster, yet never moving anywhere. We join them, trying to catch up to someone or something for some reason. The soft rhythm of Advent calls out to us like a still small voice.

Watch and wait: He is coming.

Enter the disciplined silence of listening. The Psalmist invites us to “wait on the Lord.” Like Zechariah, we enter the Holy Place offering the incense of our prayers, our quiet worship, our deep yearning, our sad regrets. We offer up our joys and sorrows, our victories and failures to the One who gives us breath. We pause and simply wait upon the Lord.

The rhythm of Advent is the rhythm of waiting. It is the choice to stop, to pause, to listen, to watch, and to wait for the coming of the Lord. Advent waits with hope for the end of all things to be summed up Christ alone. Advent waits for the shalom of God: when war finally will end. When true peace finally will be revealed. When the lion really will lay down with the lamb.

The rhythm of Advent is a rhythm that moves in four directions: we look forward with hope to the day of the His coming, we look backward with joy at the advent of His first coming, we look inward with gratitude for His coming into our lives, and we look outward with expectation for His coming into our world even now. These four motions, these four gazes, these four directions train us to listen, to watch and to obey.

The watching servant learns to do only what he sees the Father do. We learn to act in the world as cross-bearers, lovers, healers and reconcilers.

The days grow short. The night grows long. The shadow of death looms over the world and over our souls. As the chill winter approaches, let us enter the season of waiting and watching for our Lord. Let us prepare for a surprise, for coming of the Lord who does the impossible.

“And blessed is the servant whom the master finds watching when He comes. For He will set them at the wedding feast, and put on his apron and serve them!”

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