The Advent themes of longing, hope, and waiting have been running through my mind all week. I’m thinking about my deeper longings and how properly placed hope can help me wait confidently and with expectation for those longings to be fulfilled. We’re surrounded by upbeat Christmas music, lights, and glitter, but if we stop to get in touch with the longings that often stay hidden beneath all our activity and also the longings of much of the world, we know that all is not truly upbeat for us or for the world.
What are some of my longings? I long for broken hearts to be healed, broken relationships to be made whole, broken bodies to be strengthened, a broken world to have peace. There is so much brokenness in this world, both on a large scale and also in my own life, and if I focus on it, I can become disheartened and overwhelmed, but ignoring it won’t make it go away, either. For me this week, the ongoing question has been how to be realistically aware of these longings without sinking beneath the weight of their current unfulfillment.
That’s where hope comes in. Being aware of my longings makes me hope for much more than something that will simply distract me temporarily. Not an “I wish it were better” hope, but hope based on the truth that since God sent Jesus to be born as a baby over 2,000 years ago, I can be confident he has not abandoned this world and that he does fulfill his promises. Jesus promised his followers that is going to return someday and make all things right. That gives me hope for the future.
That hope for the future leads to waiting– waiting for Jesus to set things right in the world and also in me and my life. That helps my long-term perspective, but even that waiting is not just a waiting for something to happen at some unknown time in the future. Because Jesus said he would never leave or forsake those who trust him and that he would send the Holy Spirit to be with us, this time of waiting is a rich time of expectation and a waiting-with more than just a waiting-for. Not always, to be sure, and not without some sadness and very human desire for immediate change, but my overall perspective is that I am waiting in company with all creation and with the Holy Spirit in me for that time when the light that shines in the darkness will finally completely drive away all darkness.
What are your deepest longings? Do you have a hope that gives you confidence for your future and that of the world? And what is waiting like for you? In these weeks before Christmas, let’s take some time to recognize our longings and clarify where real hope can be found, and then let’s wait with expectation.