Advent Week 1 [Weds. 2012]

Advent 1st Sunday: Year C [05DEC12] Theme for week 1—Waiting & Hope

Readings: Psalm 119:1-24 Isaiah 2:1-11 1 Thess 2:13-20 Luke 20:19-26

Advent Week 1 [Weds. 2012]

Today, my waiting is a lament. In the past 24 hours I have been overcome with a virus, a cold or flu of some sort. My muscles, bones, head, and lungs all hurt. I have a fever and it is difficult to breath… sinuses plugged, ears plugged, head aching and stuffy; no fun at all. Already, I’ve had to adjust my schedule and cancel meetings and the complications continue to mount. While I know there are people in far worse physical health than I am, I lament the fact that my present condition is not the way that things are supposed to be.

 He restores my soul. He guides me along right paths. (Psalm 23:3)

As I take the time to consider my sickness, I realize in this lament is a different kind of waiting… a waiting that says to me; “I will endure and persevere through this season of situations and circumstance that should not be, for the sake of and hope for things that be and are yet to come.” These things that “should not be” certainly extend beyond the situation of my flu bug. We experience all manner of grief, sorrow, and tears while we wait. The scourge of disease, a myriad of health afflictions, and death surround us at every turn. Emotional turmoil, relationship ills, and the inability to experience shalom in our present world are reminders that things are not the way they should be. We are reminded by the circumstances of our waiting that we are meant for something more, so hope blooms and swells waiting to burst forth with the promises of something more, something better, and something eternal.

 He restores my soul. He guides me along right paths. (Psalm 23:3)

Richard Beck offers thoughts about Advent as a lament, which I believe adds insight to my own.

Advent is sort of like a lament. Advent is being the slave in Egypt, sitting with the experience of exile. Advent is about looking for God and hoping for God in a situation where God’s promises are outstanding and yet to be fulfilled. So I wonder if our rushing through Advent to the celebration of Christmas might have some spiritual consequences, akin to skipping Lent so we can get to Easter. Might Christmas be too triumphalistic without Advent? Much like Easter Sunday without Good Friday? Waiting for God and enduring the pain of that waiting is a spiritual discipline. Advent is a time to cultivate that discipline. A time to chasten the rush to happy endings in our spiritual lives. We must learn to wait on God. We must learn to celebrate Advent. (from Experimental Theology by Richard Beck)

The more I consider these thoughts, the more I wonder if part of this season of “things that should not be” are part of the sanctifying process brought on by our Lord. Even the oppression and slavery of the people of Israel in Egypt was a season of being set aside for the LORD’s purposes and use—this is the definition of sanctification—being set aside for the purposes of God. Enduring hard places and hard times are quite possibly a means of sanctification for us. We wait in them and through them, trusting God will lead us to what we hope for on the other side—wholeness, health as He intended, and eternal shalom with Him.

When you realize that the only thing worth living for is sanctity. Then you will be satisfied to let God lead you to sanctity by paths that you cannot understand. You will travel in darkness in which you will no longer be concerned with yourself and no longer compare yourself with other men. -Thomas Merton (from  New Seeds of Contemplation)

 He restores my soul. He guides me along right paths. (Psalm 23:3)

A Prayer:

To you, O Christ, King most loving, and to the Father be glory with the Spirit, the Paraclete, for everlasting ages. May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you… May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.

The starting point for the early church was this awareness of the abyss of sin inside each person. God, who is all charity and light, wants to make us perfect as he is perfect, shot through with his radiance. The first step in our healing, then, is not being comforted. It is taking a hard look at the cleansing that needs to be done.

Throughout this day, O LORD, I will pause, take a breath, and listen with my heart. I will release my need to know and embrace trust that You have put me on the right path, which will help me to become all that you intend for me to be.

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