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O Sapientia

Today the church shifts from looking forward to remembering the coming of Christ into the world, into a family, into a manger. Over the next seven nights, the church across the ages joins in the “O Antiphons” prayers and chants, longing for and looking toward the birth of Christ. (For those unfamiliar with O Antiphons, the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” follows the seven chant rhythm in its seven verses. Read more about them at Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_antiphon)

So we look and long toward Christmas Day. In one sense we hold in tension a longing for the coming of the Lord in three tenses, present, past and future. Bernard of Clairvaux spoke of three Advents: the coming of Christ in Bethlehem, the second coming of Christ at the end of this age, and the middle coming of Christ in this present moment.

We are waiting for His coming. We join with the Shepherds, waiting in the darkness of ignorance. We join with the Wise Men, waiting in the light of heavenly star. We join with the Church, waiting in the fog of a glass darkly.

Tonight the church sings out,

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care:
Come and show your people the way to salvation.

We are waiting for the Creator of all things to come and dwell in the midst of His Creation. The Gospel of John opens declaring the coming of the Creator into His creation:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 ESV)

We are waiting for the coming of the Word, for the coming of the One through whom all things were made, we are waiting for the Life and Light of men.

Yet, we wait in the dark.

We deny the darkness of the prisons we’ve built all around us. Surrounded by prisons of affluence, prisons of self-satisfaction, prisons of impatience. These prisons constructed by corrupt human hands are designed to keep out the light.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
(John 3:19 ESV)

We can plan Christmas celebrations in these prisons of darkness. We can sing Christmas songs in these prisons of darkness. We can attend Christmas services in these prisons of darkness. We can celebrate Christ while hiding our eyes from Christ.

Beneath the ring of Christmas bells and dancing elves, we may hear a tin sound, a hollow echo, an empty refrain. By His Grace, we may realize that our mansions of affluence are dilapidated shantytowns, built by the truly homeless who blind to their eyes to poverty, sickness and depravation in their own lives and in the world.

We are dying in the dark and only the Wisdom of God can recreate our discarded images into echoes of glory. During the music and mayhem of the next week, you may hear something that bursts a ray of light into your prison of darkness. Perhaps an offhand comment. Maybe a penetrating story. You might hear an unsettling song.

These gentle nudges are but a whisper on the wind, carrying “the distant sound of the angels’ song praising God and promising peace on earth.”* If you hear this sound, be careful.

In fact, be cautious. Whatever you do be cautious.

For He is coming with Light into your prison of darkness. And His coming is risky.

The babe in the manger died on a cross.

Only the desperate should turn toward Him in His coming. The self-satisfied must run.

For He is coming with Light into our prisons of darkness. And His coming is risky.

His coming unsettles everything. His Light exposes our impoverishment. His Life reveals our deathly paler. His Love manifests the hatred choking our soul.

He is coming with healing in His Wings, but His healing may feel like death.

Don’t ever think Advent is a safe little season of reflection. It stands on the very edge of the creation and destruction of all things.

As we wait and watch for the coming of Wisdom, for the coming of the One through whom all things, all people, all existence is created, let us be wary.

Our days are numbered. We stand at the edge of the end of all things. We stand at the edge of the beginning of all things. It is a thing of dread. It is a thing of glory.

If you are world-weary, battle worn, sick of the stench of your own selfishness, give up. Call off your war against God. Let’s bow before the Lord Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Even now He breathes into our clay forms. Nothing will ever be the same again.

* This phrase comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Advent sermon on December 2, 1928.

Categories: Advent
  1. Ben Taylor
    December 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Breathtaking, Doug! The danger and risk of Advent! The birth narratives of Jesus in Luke and Matthew are, to me at least, as dreadful as they are joyful. There is no separation between God in his grace and in his judgment, in his curse and in his blessing, for he’s always one and the same God who even while he stands against us, does so because he is all the more for us. Thank you for your beautifully poetic and profoundly theological articulation of Advent.

  2. December 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Your pile of prophetic prose has this day made my waiting, standing with creation in the left hand and purification by fire in the right: on this middle earth at the feet of the risen Christ of the present moment— the exact place that I want to be. When I behold HIM in his place, then I know where is my place. Thank you,Doug, for sharing! david

  3. December 18, 2010 at 4:13 am

    Thanks guys. I appreciate your encouragement and ongoing challenge.

  4. ginger
    December 20, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Iam thankful this day when Isaw the Great Light and may it continue to shine and change us everyone!

  5. December 20, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Amen!!!

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