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Advent: The Cry of Desperation

Advent breaks into our satiated lives with a disturbing cry. Beneath the constant chaos of non-stop activity, we’re confronted with lonely, aching voice of desperation.

Something is wrong.

Our ingenuity cannot fix it. Our laughter cannot repress it. Our motion can silence it. The painful howls of Jeremiah echo across time, penetrating our cool pretension of comfort and ease:

My eyes fail with tears,
My heart is troubled;
My bile is poured on the ground
Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
Because the children and the infants
Faint in the streets of the city.
(Lamentations 2:11)

Something’s wrong. Something’s terribly wrong. Jeremiah watches in disbelief as his world collapses. He cries until no tears are left–only the dark, putrid bile of despairing revulsion. All anguish of all the years converge in Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations. The overwhelming grief of sin’s destructive force is realized in this moaning cry of desperation.

But we don’t know this desperation. Thus we find it difficult to wait and watch the coming of the Lord. And this waiting is the essence of Advent. How can we wait if we are not really even anticipating his coming? Sometimes, we think His coming might interfere with our plans, our hopes, our dreams.

“O Lord, don’t come yet. Please wait until
I’m married
I’ve traveled the world
I’ve fulfilled my dreams.
I’ve seen my grandchildren.

“O Lord, don’t come yet. I’m not ready.”

Isaiah lived among a people very similar to us. He could see they were clothed in rags and were desperately poor, but they proudly sported their humiliation as a thing of pride. They were blind to their desperate condition.
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
And there is no one who calls on Your name,
Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us,
And have consumed us because of our iniquities.
(Isaiah 64:6-7)

Advent begins the church year, reminding us. We are desperately in need of a Savior. During Advent, we stir ourselves to take hold of God.

Without the Advent’s desperate longing, Christmas joy seems empty and mocking–a superficial smile covering the anguish caused by sin. Our world is not all right. Would we, could we but catch a glimpse of the pain that stretches across this globe in one single moment, we might break under the weight of grief. Jeremiah’s lamentation over the destruction of Jerusalem anticipates this woe more fully than any other human prayer–save one.

The tears of blood shed in the garden by our Savior. Jesus realizes this anguish perfectly and suffers beyond all human comprehension and grasping. In his suffering, he enters into the suffering of every single human across the ages.

In moments of clarity and honesty, we admit an ache that reverberates through our being. The ache of failure, of suffering, of bitterness, of loneliness, of rejection, of loss, of separation. We know the ache of disappointment, of dreams that will never be realized, of sorrow that knows no consolation. We may deny it. We may ignore. But we still suffer. And the fear of these pains drive many of our actions in this world. Ultimately, we all face the desperate terror of being separate from God. And it burns within our souls.

Only from this realization of desperation can the waiting for the coming of the Lord make any sense. As we pause from the frivolity of our darkened and darkening world, may we acknowledge our all-consuming condition of neediness.

Only then, may we come to understand the wonder and the glory of the hope Jeremiah discovers in his dark night of eternity. For in the midst of Jeremiah’s song of woe, he realizes there is hope in waiting upon the Lord. As we begin the season of waiting and longing for our Lord’s second coming, let us join the waiting and longing for His first coming, and discover a hope that cannot be shaken.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:20-26)

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