A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah.
If only You would rip open the heavens and come down to earth–its heights and depths would quake the moment You appear, like kindling when it just begins to catch fire, or like water that's about to boil.
If only You would come like that so that all who deny or hate You would know who You are and be terrified of your grandeur.
We remember that long ago You did amazing things for us that we had never dreamed You'd do. You came down, and the mountains shook at Your presence. Nothing like that had ever happened before–no eye had ever seen and no ear had ever heard such wonders, but You did them then for the sake of Your people, for those who trusted in You. You meet whoever tries with sincerity of purpose to do what You want–to do justice and follow in Your ways.
But You became so angry when we rebelled and committed all sorts of wrongs; we have continued in our sins for a long time. So how can we be saved? We are all messed up like a person compromised with impurity; even all our right efforts are like soiled rags. We're drying up like a leaf in autumn and are blown away by wrongdoing.
And it's so sad because no one calls out to You or even bothers to approach You anymore. You've been absent from us too long; You left us to dissolve away in the acrid power of our sins.
Still, Eternal One, You are our Father. We are just clay, and You are the potter. We are the product of Your creative action, shaped and formed into something of worth. Don't be so angry anymore, O Eternal; don't always remember our wrongs.
Please, look around and see that we are all Your people.
This is the Word of the Lord.
The waiting game begins.
It begins in a yearning for help. A yearning for rescue. A yearning for something new and better. A yearning for something other than.
Yet, it also begins with a memory. The memory of Advent past. The memory of a King and a Kingdom and a promise to set all things right.
Between the two we now stand. Remembering the times past where the mountains trembled. Yet, longing for them to tremble again.
It's all a bit like an epic novel that you've read before. You know how it will end. You know the story. You know in the end all the loose threads of the story will merge into one beautiful tapestry. Yet, you begin the novel again.
“Once upon a time…”
And, as you near the middle of the book, you are caught between knowing the promise of hope will be fulfilled and the actual fulfillment of the promise.
A good novel will draw you in. It will make you feel and think and believe that you are the main character. You are Shasta riding into battle at Anvard. You are Bilbo discovering the secret of the ring. You are Harry running toward a wall in Kings Cross Station.
Here we find ourselves. Along with Isaiah, we are in the middle of an epic story. Somewhere between. Not quite at the end, yet knowing the end. Not quite at the beginning, but remembering the beginning.
And, the story is not yet finished. The Author continues to add pages. And, we continue to live the plot and the twists and the turns. Like clay in the hands of the Potter, we yield to the Author. And, we walk out the story longing for the fulfillment of the promise.
So, now, we begin our walk to Christmas. In our walk, we yearn for a fulfilled Kingdom. Yet, we know that the King has come. And, somewhere in between we find ourselves. Confused by the hurts and pains and death and illnesses of this place. And, from somewhere off the page, we hear the Author whispering, “Trust me.”
This isn't to say that the Author writes into the story all the pain and suffering and hurt and confusion and murder and suicide and hurricanes and floods–becuase He doesn't. But, it is to say that while these things happen, they don't catch the Author by surprise.
The Author wields the pen, and from within the midst of all the mess of the world, He writes a story of life–life to the fullest. He writes a story of missing things found and broken things fixed. He writes a story of Kingdom come.
And Kingdom that has come.
And Kingdom that is yet to come.
So, here we stand on the precipice of Christmas. Not yet there, but not so far away. From that precipice, we can see the Kingdom. We can see the joy and the peace and the life and the fulfilled promise.
And, that is what gives us the ability to hope.