What Is It We Are Waiting For?

The cool thing about yesterday's Advent mix up is that we just bought ourselves a week to explore the back story.
Why do we acknowledge this time of anticipation?
Why do we celebrate a child's birth that took place 2000 years ago?

I have a few thoughts on all of this . . .

Keep in mind a few things . . .
A) It has been 7 years since in sat in my Old Testament seminary classes. So, I know that I might have some of the Biblical details mixed up. I will try to clarify those as I study more this month.
B) These are my thoughts and words about Advent . . . please enjoy them, use them, pass them along . . . but please don't preach them, publish them, or claim them as your own.

Now that we have all of that cleared up . . .

From the time I became a believer in Christ (in my late teens), I can remember feeling disillusioned during the Christmas Eve service at church. The day would go great up to the point that I sat in the dim old church; squirming around in a creaky wooden pew. We wrapped last minute gifts . . . or in my case, we made our last minute gifts and prayed they would dry on time! And then mom made homemade waffles and ham. After washing down a great day with a tall glass of egg nog, we drove to church.

Eventually, I saw Christmas Eve as a time of worship rather than a special night to wear my new dress and oggle at the women who wore fur coats to the late service.

But I always left feeling sad and overwhelmed.
It was clear that what was being said was important.
What we observed was important.

I knew it must be important because there was a 20 foot tree at the front of the building and hundreds of poinsetas placed strategically around the room. The choir, robed in Burgundy and gold, sang songs learned especially for that evening - often times in Latin. Now, I don't know about you, but in my world, if a person makes the effort to learn something in Latin, it is a pretty special occasion.

They had my attention.
It was clear that Christmas was important.

But I felt hard pressed to be changed in my heart by what had happened in Bethlehem so many years ago. Even as an adult, it has been hard to celebrate something that I don't really understand the origin and importance of. Easter is much easier for me. As violent and agonizing as the story is, I get the whole, "he died for your sins and then overcame them" thing.

What has been more difficult to grasp is the process of "waiting" and "anticipating" that Israel went through so many years ago. It is hard to imagine a time in history when people believed the Savior would come . . . they just didn't know when.

The time of Advent leads up to the crescendo of Christ's birth!
But the message that was told was always too big to fit into an hour long service. There were not enough candles or choir robes or words in the Latin language to sufficiently communicate the message. It was like pouring the Pacific Ocean into a Dixie Cup.

Even if it had been possible for them to sufficiently convey the message in one hour, my heart could not hold it; my mind could not comprehend it. Because the Christmas Story is so much longer than what can be told in one hour. It has so little to do with stars and wisemen and mangers. Those are, in my opinion, vivid but gratuitous details that we have grasped tightly to, with the hopes of creating some symbolance of order out of this holiday.

Most sermons are based on 9 or 10 verses of Scripture. That is, if the pastor even uses Scripture anymore! But this message, really, requires the back story of the entire Old Testament and hundreds of years of relationship between God and man to fully appreciate the significance of a young, unmarried girl who risked her life because she believed that an angel told her the child in her belly was from God.

It doesn't do much good to anticipate Christ's arrival if we don't really understand why we need him. You can't yearn for somebody that you don't know. You can't really celebrate the homecoming of a loved one if you didn't miss their absence in the first place.
I suppose that is exactly what the Isrealites did.

By the time of his birth, Christ had been prophesied about for decades. Some people yearned for his anticipated arrival. Sadly, many people lost hope that he would come at all, and the faithful anticipatory crowd tended to be limited to prophets and others who were considered to be the town crazies and overall burdensome to those who just wanted to live their lives without obligation or boundary.

Why did they need a Savior? Why was this Emmanuel's arrival such a big deal? Why were they anticipating him for so long?

We can trace this all the way back to Genesis. From the time Eve's lips tongue tasted lies mixed with apple juice, we needed some help.

We needed a Redeemer. We were disconnected from God after that whole fresh fruit fiasco, and humanity as a whole was desperately in need of a means of repaying an infinite debt.

Later, the nation of Israel is formed in the form of one polygomist who had a falling out with his brother, so he takes his wives and all of their children away from their homes out of his own fear, and ends up in Egypt, where they are enslaved. All of those people suffered because he was a bonehead. Perhaps he was feeling a little like Miss Eve at that moment.

Yes, I am thinking we need a Savior. Because, don't we all make mistakes like this? (. . . the answer . . . it is "yes".)

Later, there is this whole locust and blood thing . . . kind of gruesome. They finally get out of dodge one night after an angel goes through town and knocks off all of the Egyptians. So, they are free, but far from home. So God earmarks a kid with a lisp to lead the group of ex-slaves to a "promised land". But what should have been a three or four day walk takes 40 years.

These people are wandering around and without a King. They cannot go home and they cannot go to the "promised land" due to political unrest. They don't have a poltical leader to protect them.

And they are desperate for one. Why?

A king, a good king, will represent and protect his people. A good king has a voice that is respected and heeded. A good king helps to maintain order and justice.

This is something we all need. And without a good king, we are either unfairly reigned (a dictatorship) or reigned with a weak hand and left to our own devices. There was disorder and injustice - and they longed for someone to come in to guide and protect them.

One problem is that people have historically been disinterested in resolving the breech between themselves and God. It seems much easier and more comfortable to just keep things the way they are.

Israel needed a king. We need a king. The reality is, they had one - from the beginning, God has been king.

But they chose not to follow him. They did not respond to his direction.

So, God promised them a king they might respond to.
A human king.

And so, we wait, like they waited.
We look inside and we see the ways that our souls are just like the state of Isreal back before the Savior was born . . . scared, without direction, and burdened.
It becomes just a bit more clear that this kid whose birthday we celebrate next month, might actually be worth the wait.

Look inside . . . And ask . . .

How do I need to be redeemed?
How do I need to be led?
How do I need to be protected?

These are the reasons a Messiah was promised and delivered. If we don't know why a Redeemer is significant in our lives, then we have no basis on which to anticipate Christ or to celebrate his birth at the end of this month.

And we are left with a belly full of nog and an empty heart.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never seen the advent so clearly layed out like you have in your two entries about it. I am a girl that needs things to be spelled out for me...I am like a kindergartner that way. I have always had trouble wrapping my mind around the meaning of advent, but today, I get it and today it has new meaning to my heart.

8:27 PM, November 27, 2006  
Blogger Jennifer Coomer said...

Okay, let me get the funny part out of the way first. I read this,
"We needed a Redeemer," and there was a misfiring between my eyes and my brain because for a second or more I thought you had written: We needed a Reindeer." How is that for missed the meaning of the season?????

I sometimes think that in our present day "hurry-up!!!" culture we are so good at overly anticipating EVERY THING that even we modern day Christians forget how to anticipate the really big things. And when we know the end of the story we have a hard time understand the anticipation anyhow. We forget to even anticipate His second coming...let alone His first.

I LOVE Advent. I LOVE ADVENT songs. Too often we skip over them and go right to the Christmas Carols. But have you ever sung, "O, Come, O Come Emmanuel" as a prayer and felt your insides ache? It's one of my favorites of this season.

Thanks for the lesson/reminder/refresher.

9:26 PM, November 27, 2006  

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