30 November 2014

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The last 5 months have flown by as we anticipate the birth of our daughter in February. Never before has it seemed like a semester has gone by so quickly (not that I'm counting down the 15 days till Christmas break), or that work-week cycles ended & re-started so abruptly. It seems like having a long-range goal that's got a due date I cannot control or change has really put a lot of things in my life into perspective, or perhaps thrown them into sharper relief. As today marks the first Sunday of Advent, the season of year when Christians look back to Christ's birth and anticipate His return, I find myself pondering long-expected arrivals.
Think about it - the people of Israel waited for thousands of years for a promised Messiah, who would be the fulfillment of the promised seed of Abraham; would be as great as Moses; and would restore creation to its proper order and function. They had witnessed the downfall of their greatest dynasty, and were later taken captive. After returning from exile, they had seen a re-built temple that did not live up to the promise they expected it would fulfill. They saw military conquerors who established a dynasty that only endured for about a century. And once again, they found themselves practically in exile as they saw their beloved promised land beneath the oppressor's boot.
At that point, I would imagine a sense of hopelessness would overtake any anticipatory joy; that anxiety would replace expectation, and people just might stop looking for this promised Messiah. And yet, we read in Luke 2:22-38 that at least one man had not given up. He was an old man, probably stooped with years, his hands weak and his eyesight failing - but he would not give up hope that God would fulfill His promises to His people or his particular servant. We also find another who had diligently served the Lord in obscurity, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day at the Temple. She, too, was advanced in age and had served in the Temple since her husband had died when she was young. These two were likely holding fast to the word of the Lord in Isaiah 9:6-7:
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

And one day as they go about their usual business at the Temple, Simeon and Anna see a young couple bringing a child to be consecrated, and the Spirit moves in them to reveal that this is the deliverer they have been waiting for! Simeon says "Now I can die in peace," and Anna was probably not far from death herself at her age - and they have now seen the salvation of the Lord. When it seemed like Israel should just give up hope, and when these two servants were "advanced in years," God revealed His plan to them!
Two thousand years later, I often find it difficult to keep looking forward to Christ's return. It sure doesn't seem "soon" to me, but then again, never did a semester seem to fly so quickly as when I was expecting the birth of our first child. May be, I just need an eternal perspective on "soon"-ness to teach me to wait patiently for the Lord to act. And if I'm anticipating my Lord's return, mayhaps the daily stresses of work, determining when to apply to grad school, and impending fatherhood, will fall back into their proper position. Compared with the return of the Lord of all Creation, these are small things (granted, fatherhood is a big responsibility, blessing, so it is "small" only by comparison). Lord, teach me to have your perspective, always keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus. O come, O come, Emmanuel.

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