Advent: A Time for Waiting and Longing


So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
And live your life.
~~Mary Oliver

Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise.
~~Karl Rahner

Advent and longing walk hand-in-hand. Advent, a season of waiting, watching and longing. We sing Come thou long expected Jesus with longing as an acknowledged season of the soul. Deep within, we feel the fall forward and the yearning for more, the longing for something deeper and richer, both around and within us. Our souls ripen as we long.

What is the collective image of Advent in our souls? Our narrative offers a small child in a cradle nestled in the stable; strangers from another country, wandering, following their hearts’ longing; wise men and women making a pilgrimage to an unknown place beneath a dazzling sea of stars.

At Advent, we seasonally long and wait through our liturgy–our hymns, our prayers, our sermons, our hearts, our being. All invite us into a certain relationship with the horizon. Isaiah articulates such a longing and vision in chapters 2 and 11 that point to Advent. He envisions a time when:

God shall judge between nations,
and shall beat their swords into
and their spears into pruning
nation shall not lift up sword
against nation,
neither shall they learn war
any more.

~~Isaiah 2: 4

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with
the kid,
the calf and the lion and the
fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put
it’s hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the
knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

~~Isaiah 11: 6-9

In these two passages of Isaiah, we hear spirited, prophetic imagination from a place of longing—a deep, heart-felt yearning for peace coupled with justice. Of course, to preach such a marriage of these paradoxical partners takes genius and is a rare, a high thing, un-subsidized, having its own courage.

The story of Mary is a narrative of deep longing; her openness to bear and carry this longing to its full incarnation—the child of promise and possibilities being born, the Christ Child.

Longing during this season of Advent is the transfiguration of waiting and aloneness, the cyclical season, the womb of alchemy, the ritualistic recognition of aloneness transformed into longing. It is the defenseless interior core of a person receiving its overdue invitation from the mystery of the universe – the moon, the stars, the night horizon and the great tidal flows of love and life; all are from God. Advent is a sacred season of being and becoming the Oneness of what is! Immanuel, God with us and in us.

In the end, Advent and longing bring us to an edge of knowing ourselves. During this season, if we never look inward at the aloneness and the longing, we tend to become experts at life on the edge, while seldom unlocking what our seeking and longing mean and carry for us. Advent provides us that season and space to ponder the meaning of what we carry and that for which we long.

Whether pursuing our longing literally or symbolically or some of both, the season of Advent is about falling toward the center of our longing. Advent invites us to be intentional about the search. At this place, the Christ Child awaits and out of this space, incarnation happens and the divine is born in and through us along with all the robust vulnerability that come with it.

What have we done with the garden we have been given and long for?
There is an infinite moment when everything happens.
Advent is the season of being in that moment, waiting, watching
where everything and nothing happens;
watching for the shoot that grows
out of a mysterious dark place,
behind a thousand images,
above a thousand thoughts,
beneath a thousand words,
a world quakes,
out of the non-happening,
the world trembles
and everything changes, quietly.
Silence, please!

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