At the end of another hectic week (and I still haven’t started my Christmas cards), here’s another one of my Advent readings. I find the shepherds to be especially poignant. I imagine them wistful, wondering what it would be like to be part of a larger community, to be “in the know”. They’re always out-of-town, out of touch, out of the loop. No one tells them anything.
Which makes it so delightfully kind of the Lord to tell them the Good News first–and let them tell everyone else. (***If you’d like to read more about the historic shepherds and why they were such unlikely recipients of the greatest newsflash ever, check out this article at Livebold.com.)
I wrote Advent Longings because I wanted to hear the Biblical voices still waiting, those patient faithful souls waiting without any clear idea of hope being fulfilled. As we wait here in the between-time, looking for our Lord’s second coming, may their voices fill us with new hope.
Happy third Sunday of Advent!
By the end of the day today (Sunday) I will have supervised eleven hours of Living Nativity drama, performed by over 50 different actors (not all at once!) over a space of two and a half days. The four scenes took audiences of 50 people (maximum) at a time on a 20-minute journey through Bethlehem. If all goes well, a couple of thousand people will get to see one of the 60 performances.
But of course it’s not all about the numbers, even if as writer/director/producer I’ve been fixated on that–and on the logistics of making it work and keeping it on schedule.
It’s really about getting inside the experiences of 2,000 years ago and recapturing the wonder and significance of the Christmas story. And that’s really what we should be doing during the Advent season every year. Fortunately, we don’t need to do anything as ambitious as mounting a Living Nativity to accomplish that.
(From Advent Longings, copyright 1997.)
“Soon–please, Father, soon,” she pants, shifting her weight on the blanket-draped straw, trying to outwait the pains. This wave over, she lies back, her breathing heavier now than the beasts’, hulking in the gloomy corners.
At least it’s quiet here, she thinks, grateful for relief from the bustling, crowded street…the noise has faded with the end of day, and is more muffled here through the sturdy stable walls. Joseph did his best, gathering blankets, linens, a clay lamp and oil–though it cost them all the little store of coin they had. A servant kindly brought them bread and wine. It will be their last meal before…he comes. Bread stays their hunger, and wine dims her pain a bit, so she can sleep.
This piece is from a cycle of readings entitled Advent Longings, which I wrote in 1997:
Isaiah the prophet sits in silence, watching the sunset of a nation… “O Lord, it darkens! Fast the night is falling in our hearts.” He weeps aloud for the glory of Israel, the glory faded now past all remembrance—except his, it seems.
“We’ve turned our backs upon the burning bush. The pillar of fire and cloud no longer guides us. We seek no more the all-consuming fire of Your holiness. You have spoken and we have stopped our ears against You. You have been the light that lightens all our lives, and we have cursed its brightness and embraced the night.
“O Lord, is there no end to all the works of darkness?
Saturday night we were trying to do something meaningful with our granddaughter, who is almost two. This is the first Christmas she may possibly remember, and we’re emphasizing Jesus’ birthday all we can. Hearing of a Living Nativity being put on by a local church, we set off tonight to experience it together.
It was a half hour drive, but Lucy had taken a late nap so we weren’t concerned. She was getting cranky by the time the church came in sight. Then we turned the corner to access the parking lot…and saw the line of cars coming from the other direction, who were waiting to turn right into the lot. The policeman with a light stick waved us on past, and we drove by, looking for the end of the line. We found it…a mile away.
It’s the first Sunday of the season of anticipation that the Church calls “Advent”…which simply means ‘coming’. We reenact the longing that Israel felt waiting for its promised Messiah, by counting down to our celebration of Christ’s birth.
But for Christians, Advent is never just about a reenactment or a birthday party for someone born 2,000 years ago. It’s also our own true longing for our Savior’s SECOND coming, which will restore all things to their rightful place of subordination under the rule of Almighty God.
Finally, justice and mercy will flower, death will be swallowed up in life, and every knee will bow before the King, proclaiming, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” to the glory of God the Father (see Philippians 2:9-11).
Meanwhile, we wait here in a dark world, and we light our candles of hope anew each December.
Here’s a poem which echoes many of the themes this blog has been playing for the past several months. Thanks to Bob Myers over at his excellent blog, ‘Thots on Life and Worship’, for introducing this poem (and this poet) to me.
Posted in Christian, Christmas, Meditations
Tagged Advent, Christ's coming, Christmas poem, Hope, influence the culture, poetry, Promise, Second Coming, Thomas Troeger