O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil–
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. Is. 64: 1-3.
In our world today, most of us have concluded that the problem with instant gratification is….it takes too long. We aren’t accustomed to waiting: for the economy to recover, for our children to figure out how to behave, for a new car, or for God to fix things. The Psalm for today reflects exactly that kind of impatience. The reading perfectly explores our Advent expectations, as we ask God, “Where, exactly, have you been? Have you even noticed what’s going on down here?”
Many of the Advent readings address exactly this deep longing within the Jewish people, as they waited for someone to lead them out of slavery in Egypt, as they bore the shame of the Exile, and as they waited for God to redeem this world that just wasn’t working. They had waited for thousands and thousands of years and they knew that something had to change.
The season of Advent centers on precisely this deep, overwhelming conviction that something must change, and only God can make a difference in this situation. This notion leads us to the second Advent impulse: our need to prepare ourselves for this coming change. Thus, we sometimes refer to Advent as “the little Lent.”
We listen to John the Baptist calling us to “make straight the path of the Lord.” John warns us that we aren’t ready for God’s arrival into our lives, that we cannot begin to understand the radical difference Jesus will make in the world. The Baptist cautioned the first century Palestinians that only repentance would prepare them for the cataclysmic difference that Jesus would make. Only that repentance would prepare them for the truth of Christ. He is still warning us of that today.
Rowan Williams once said, “During Advent, we try to get ourselves a bit more used to the truth – the truth about ourselves, which is not always very encouraging, but the truth about God above all which is always encouraging. The One who comes will come with a great challenge. It will be like fire on the earth as the Bible says. And yet the One who comes is coming in love. He’s coming to set us free. And that’s something well worth waiting for.”
I wish you a very holy season of Advent. Shabbat shalom,
James R. Dennis, O.P.
© 2011 James R. Dennis