As I noted last week, I am trying to participate in the Advent season, which takes place over the four weeks before Christmas. In Advent, we are invited to long for the beauty of Christ’s coming even as we look honesty at the brokenness of the world and our hearts.
Last Sunday, I lit the second purple candle of our copper wreath and said a prayer with my wife. It is given for the second Sunday of Advent in the Anglican The Book of Common Prayer:
Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
The prayer asks for the gift to linger and notice what Scripture says. Hearing, reading, marking, learning, and digesting the Scriptures. This is not primarily so we can be theologically astute. Instead, pay attention so you can be comforted as you patiently wait for the blessed hope of His coming. Oh, how we need comfort at this time! We are asked to mourn the darkness in this season of Advent, and of course, there is more to mourn than we can handle. But Jesus promised that those who mourn are blessed and shall be comforted.
Though I’ve learned about the notion of mourning my brokenness and the brokenness of the world, I avoid the actual practice. I fear to enter. Two of my relatives have Covid, and another is in the depths of chronic depression. I sit in silence and prayer for them, but not for long. Apparently, I don’t believe Jesus will comfort me. I expect to be swallowed by grief. And would that be so bad? I thankful that God is patient with me. He “knows my frame, that I am but dust.”
Last Sunday, we also prayed this:
O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first Day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.(The Book of Common Prayer, A Collect for Strength To Await Christ’s Return)
This is a dense request, and there’s much that merits comment. But I will just point out the part that struck me: “steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom.” I need to be “steeled”—strengthened, toughened, fortified. Steeled to wait. This steeling is not a passive numbing. It’s not a stoic suppression of grief. I am to wait with both eyes open to the dark and broken world, to pray with tears, and offer to be a kind companion to other weary souls. For that, I need to be “steeled.”
And the prayer provides a basis: Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God “put death to flight” and “gave us hope.” The night will end. The sun will rise and dispel the darkness.
I’m also learning some Advent songs, which are a bit different from Christmas songs. Advent songs look to the future when Jesus returns. One I really like is called “Jesus Comes with Clouds Descending,” written by Charles Wesley. The version I know is Holy City Hymns, Advent 2.
Jesus comes with clouds descending;
See the Lamb for sinner slain!
Thousand, thousand saints attending
Join to sing the glad refrain:
Christ the Lord returns to reign!
Every eye shall then behold You
Robed in awesome majesty;
Those who jeered and mocked and sold You,
Pierced and nailed You to the tree,
Shamed and grieving, Shamed and grieving,
Shall their true Messiah see.
Yes, Amen! Let all adore You
High on your eternal throne;
Crowns and empires fall before You,
Claim the kingdom for Your own:
Come, Lord Jesus, Come, Lord Jesus
Everlasting Christ, come down!
That’s all for now. I hope your hope for His coming grows. Even as your awareness of and sorrow for brokenness grows.
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