With a head full of images of yesterdays Black Friday consumer frenzy today I am preparing for Advent Sunday. I can almost hear the cry of the prophet raised in lament over the crowds carrying TV's and jostling and shoving one another to grab the latest phone or tablet:
"Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down.
More images come to mind, the floods in Palestine, atrocities inflicted on the people of Syria and Iraq, news of Ebola victims, air strikes, deaths, famine struck refugee camps:
"Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down."
With shops full of goodies and tempting treats, with carols being played and decoration laden shelves inviting us to dive into celebrations the prophet's voice calls out again inviting us to pause, to ponder, to repent and reflect. What a curious gift this pre-Christmas season of Advent is, with its themes of longing, and lamenting, and yet surely it is a gift that we need so much. It calls us both deep into ourselves and beyond ourselves at the same time. It calls us away from our appetites and desires to encounter God within and without, to re-focus, and to be restored.
How do we feel about the Black Friday frenzy? Could it be that if we are honest our horror is a thin mask for a secret covetousness, in a world where we are so often judged by what we own, and the latest technology is an ever expanding feast that we feel left out or left behind when we do not have what we are told we need in order to be valid and valuable? Could it be that there might be a side to ourselves that we would rather deny, it might not be about technology, maybe it is about a meal, a dress, a car, a holiday, the list can go on; I suspect that we are all tempted, and somewhere within us lurks a certain envy alongside the revulsion that Black Friday evoked.
The prophet cries out, does our soul join in: "O that you would tear open the heavens and come down...."
How do we respond to news of war, to news of disease, to news of famine and deprivation? Does it wash over us in a stream of seemingly remote events leaving us untouched. Does it sadden us momentarily, but soon pass us by, does it leave us feeling inadequate and even impotent to do anything that might make a difference? Can we join our cry to the prophets cry:
"O that you would tear open the heavens and come down..."
Our world is not what it should be, we are not what we should be, we need someone to help us, to save us, O come, O come Immanuel!
Perhaps the greatest gift of Advent is that call to reflection and preparation in which we come to recognise again our deep need of a Saviour, to save us from our small selves, our selfishnesses and sense of inadequacy. We need a Saviour to draw us beyond ourselves to capture our hearts with a vision for the world created with so much wonder. We need a Saviour to set us free from our percieved impossibilities and draw us into divine possibilities beyond our small hopes and imaginings.
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down... the prophets cry is answered in a still small voice that rings clear: "I am with you always, even until the end of the age" , a still small voice that calls you to look within and find the faith and hopes that lie within each one of us for we are created in the image of God. The still small voice who calls out to us beyond the manger and the cross, whose cry of "it is finished" has accomplished all already and calls us to join in with the task of recreation.
Because he is with us we can lay aside our worries about what to eat and become perhaps more concerned with justice and the fact that others are not eating.
Because he is with us we can lay aside our sense of impotence and inadequacy and join our voices to the voices calling out for peace, and an end to war we can cry out for mercy, and fight for love.
Yes we need to be ready, for Advent calls us beyond now to be heralds of a new future, and to live as those preparing and prepared for it. The wonder is that we don't have to accomplish it, we are simply called to join in with the work and move of God. So if the run up to Christmas leaves you feeling weary and disillusioned perhaps this is the time to seek the unforced rhythms of grace he calls us into, beyond ourselves into a future eternity that begins now in every human heart that turns to God.
Image; Break through mine