On Monday morning I went for a long run along the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. This is my favorite times of the year to run along this trail that winds along the river, through Kalamazoo Nature Center Forest Preserves, and wide-open farm lands. I find something mystical about the bare trees and the frozen ground. That space during this time heightens my awareness of the Advent season, this season of Holy Wait. It is a stark reminder that even nature itself participates in the waiting for the gift of new life to come.
While I was running I was also running Advent’s first text through my mind, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I shall fulfill the promise I made…” The promise was one to meet and to address a broken people’s deepest longings by returning them home, and securing them. While the prophet was speaking to a particular people during a particular time in history, in a particular place, the truth of the text is that God still has promises in store for us and God still desires to meet and address our deepest longings. The birth of Jesus Christ was in fact, I believe, God’s answer to humanity’s deepest longing to know that we are not alone, and to know we are loved by the God of all creation. The Advent Wait is then a turning of our attention towards this promise.
When on the running trail in the beauty of creation longing for new life, it should be an easy thing to focus one’s mind on the waiting, the longing, the promises of God. Place the emphasis on should. In actuality I found this to be a terribly difficult thing. It wasn’t the usual distractions taking my mind in different directions so much as it was a difficulty in paying attention to what I long for. I know what I want. I know what I need. But looking beyond the want and the need to the longing is a challenging thing; partly because we are trained as human beings to not pay attention to this kind of thing. It is deemed selfish. Partly the struggle comes from simply not being able to look past my wants and needs to my longings. It’s a long journey inside oneself to pull out our deepest longings. And frankly, I don’t know if I will really pull out anything concrete. Maybe so, maybe not. But the simple act of paying attention to this is what drew my attention to the trees. This is what drew my attention to the trees who have all their needs supplied for them year round, and live with the full awareness that while their leaves die in the winter they will spring to new life in the spring. With the full knowledge of what their creator has done for them in their past they raise the branches high in anticipation of what their creator will do for them in the future.
This is the Advent Posture. For me, for us, maybe that looks a lot like keeping our eyes open in anticipation of God’s new life coming to us again as it has in years past. For me, this is probably what I long for, forever newness coming to me, coming to the church, coming to the world. This is a promise of God.
Peace, Pastor Matt