1 Dec 2014

Advent 2014 - Waiting with longing

The image of this Season of Advent as a time of longing is one which I have always loved. In one of the traditional Advent hymns I sang many years ago, I connected with the chant of the words and images which seemed to beg God to come…they went like this…

Drop down dew ye heavens and let the clouds reign down the Just One..

See O Lord, the affliction of your people and send him whom you have promised to send. Send forth the Lamb, the ruler of the earth…

And God responds in Compassion to this plea by saying;

Be comforted, be comforted my people, your salvation shall speedily come. Why has sorrow seized you? I will save you, fear now!

When we long for someone or something, it is our hearts that are engaged. Advent is about waiting, about expecting, about preparing but above all I think about longing. We long for all kinds of things but underneath our restlessness is the longing for meaning, for purpose and ultimately for God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we read that in the heart of the human person there is an aching need to be connected to God.  Examples of this are to be found everywhere especially in the psalms. Do we even have a smidgeon of the sense of urgency and Passion that the Psalmists had to call out to God for the Promised One?

God, you are my God, I am seeking you
My soul is thirsting for you,
My flesh is longing for you, a land parched, weary and waterless.
Psalm 63:1 Jerusalem Bible

As a doe longs for running streams,
So my soul longs for you my God
My soul thirsts for God, the God of my life
When shall I go to see the face of God?
I have no food but tears day and night,
All day long, people say to me where is your God ? 
Psalm 42-43;1-3 JB

Sometimes the longing is for thirst to be satisfied, other times it is a nagging loneliness.  Regardless of the image or the way it is expressed, there is a part of us that feels exiled from God. It appears that God has made us in such a way that there is within us a certain space, a deep thirst, a hunger that only God can fulfil. Just as the chosen people longed for the coming of Messiah, so too for us the cry of Advent is ‘ Come Lord Jesus –Maranatha.  God in compassion and love heard the cry of his people and sent Jesus to be His tangible connection and Presence among us. But it is not easy to tune into our soul –restlessness and recognise that it is God we are longing for deep down. Our days are so full, so noisy, so demanding, so anxious that we don’t take the time to listen to our hearts and cry out the Advent invitation ; Come Lord Jesus, Come quickly !  Maybe, this Advent we could honour that longing that is in all of us for ‘something more’ for something deeper and like St  Augustine accept that ‘Our hearts are restless and they  cannot rest until they rest in God.’    

Do we even know our soul is thirsting and restless  for God?  Maybe we could offer some time and quality care to the ‘soul space’ in each of us this Advent and like the psalmist cry out : ‘ God my soul longs for you, like a dry weary land without water.’ On a scale of one to ten, how would we measure our longing for God this Advent?

I heard someone declare recently ‘ Christmas is for children!  This conveys a sentimental understanding of Christmas as ‘waiting for the baby Jesus’ and a long way from Jesus message that He comes to establish the reign of God.  Have we settled for the sweet coming of a baby who asks little of us in terms of commitment and fidelity in an actual relationship?  Our lives are one big Advent.  Across the Diocese, we have begun a Synod Journey…a journey towards renewing our passion and need for Emmanuel –God with us. Will our Synod journey challenge us to other ways of experiencing Advent and how we could be …attentive, alert, alive,  awake,  awaiting, anticipating, asking.

May this Advent be a new beginning for us all as with the psalmists we plead … Come Lord Jesus !

Drop down dew ye heavens and let the clouds reign down the just one.  

- Sr Margaret O' Sullivan

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