Dec 7 Advent Reflection: Reorient
December 6, 2015 at 11:21 pm Categories: Digging Deeper
For an extended version of this reflection (with excerpt from Frederick Buechner’s The Longing for Home), click here.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:33).
The first half of life we long after a vision of the Kingdom. The second half of life we long after a dream of Home. Those who stop short of the Kingdom of God and his eternal homecoming will discover only restlessness instead of joy and only nostalgia instead of peace.
Why is the high school student aimlessly charged with a need to just “get out of the house”? Why does same high school student twenty years later find himself trying to recreate the home he grew up in? Why do boys resent their moms more than anyone when they are young and love their moms more than anyone when they are old? Why is it that in childhood we long for adulthood and in adulthood we long for childhood? Why do young girls and old women both want to be twenty year-old models, even though twenty year-old models don’t want to be themselves? Why does life teeter between restlessness and nostalgia?
Why does Christmas make us feel the way it does?
The number one problem concerning the Kingdom that was about to enter Zechariah’s world–in a manger–was not that it was too small but that it was too large. The grand vision of the kingdom of God had been reduced to the grandest vision of the kingdom of Israel. And that just wasn’t grand enough to accommodate God’s vision for the world. But this is always the rub.
Visions of national sovereignty satisfy enough the kingdom-shaped longings of our youth and protect enough the home-shaped longings of later life. So we settle, indeed, for the small. We want peace in our nation, absolutely, but world peace is reserved for the wishful thinking of hippies on earth and religious thinking about heaven in the hereafter.
Maybe that’s why the angel gave Zechariah’s son a name that came out of nowhere (wasn’t a family name; the neighbors thought it was odd, Lk. 1:60-61) and why John never went by his given name. He simply called himself “A Voice.” He was “the Voice crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’.” Indeed, that voice came out of a nowhere called the wilderness.
God brings life forth through Elizabeth’s barrenness and “A Voice” forth through Zechariah’s silence, because this life and its voice were preparing the world for a kingdom-shaped world as big as the earth and a home-shaped life as eternal as heaven. The world had given up on such a grandiose hope. A truly new Voice was required to proclaim the infinite horizons of a kingdom that should be too good to be true. This required a reorientation.
Advent is our reorientation to the Voice of the one who tells us to listen to our deepest longings and announces the Gospel of God’s infinite kingdom as our eternal home. But this Voice always has to come from the silence, because even the Church tends to lose its Voice on occasion. Advent silences that old cynicism and says listen up! There is One coming! Prepare the way! Don’t sell yourself short! The world always wants to give up on that grand of a kingdom but God always raises up a Voice that refuses to let hope be silenced.
Have you heard the Voice that calls out in the wilderness of your heart, the same wilderness that leads you looking for a vision of the kingdom but too often leaves you aching with a dream of home? Have you heard him say it this Advent: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths in the desert?’ (Isa. 40:3; Mt. 3:3; Mk. 1:3; Lk. 3:4; Jn. 1:23)–Because that’s the only Voice that can lead to a Kingdom that won’t leave you in the desert without a home.