"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." -Martin Luther

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Advent: Pain and Longing

Dear Readers,

Christmas is hope, joy, comfort, and happiness for people who have longings, hardship, problems, and pain. That's a tall order! But Christmas isn't just for people who are already happy and full. Here's a sermon that is much better than the rest of this post:
The Journey at Hanley Road: Jesus as Revealer
This post was written largely for my own benefit, but you are welcome to read along (anyway I guess most of my posts are written for my own benefit). I've been attempting to consider the depth of the goodness of the coming of Christ by considering how the people of Israel waited for him to come.

In Luke 2, Simeon had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah -- the consolation of Israel, salvation from God. It doesn't mention how long he'd been waiting but it is apparent he was pretty old.

Anna was 84 years old, she had been married only seven years before being widowed by the death of her husband. She had been waiting in the temple a long time.

And God hadn't talked to His people for 400 years.

Imagine waiting generations, telling your children and grandchildren to hold on, to wait, to hope, to live life with joy because someday, for some future generation, a great Messiah was coming. I guess they would have known this Psalm; it's a Psalm of David:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13 ESV)

And they would have read this too:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
(Isaiah 40:1-3 ESV)

 I think it's appropriate for followers of Christ, in the middle of "rejoicing in all things" to also be prayerfully waiting and longing for the consummation of God's great plan "...to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."

If we have to wait our whole lives, if we and our spiritual descendants have to wait four centuries (we're at twenty-one centuries now, actually!), Christ will come again, and He will comfort us completely. Even if we have "sorrow in our hearts all the day" we have God's steadfast love, his salvation, and his bountiful dealings with us to trust, rejoice in, and sing about.

If God and his salvation are really worth singing about in the middle of our troubles, this must be an amazing salvation indeed.