We made it to December, the end of another difficult year. But we also made it to Advent (which is, of course, in December), the beginning of a new year according to the liturgical calendar. In this way, December becomes a month of paradoxes, a beginning and an ending, a time of reflection and also preparation, a celebration of Jesus’ coming and the longing for his coming again.
I think it’s the paradoxical nature of this season that makes it so easy to lean into questions as much as answers, to explore the uncertainties and mysteries of our longings for transcendence and a God who rescued his people through his scandalous immanence.
Each of the next three weeks, we’ll explore questions from the Psalms, questions the people of Israel wrestled with for centuries, questions we too are facing in the 21st century, questions that find their most satisfying answers in both the first and second comings of Jesus.
I’m glad you’re here with me for this season so we can ask these questions together.
1. How Long, O Lord?
How long, O Lord? It’s the quintessential question of Advent, but it’s also the quintessential question of God’s people from the time Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden. It’s a question of longing, a question of hope, a question of faith in a God who seems absent when we need him the most.
I can hear the cry of Noah, riding the waves in the ark: How long, O Lord, until we see dry land?
I can hear the cry of Abraham and Sarah: How long, O Lord, until we have a son?
I can hear the cry of Joseph: How long, O Lord, will I be imprisoned in Egypt?
I can hear the cry of the whole nation of Israel: How long, O Lord, will we wander this wilderness?
I can hear the cry of Moses and Aaron, of Naomi and Ruth, of David and Samuel, of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Malachi: How long, O Lord? Will you abandon us forever?
I can also hear your cries, the cries of mothers and fathers, of children and teenagers, of grandmothers and grandfathers. I hear the cries of the homeless, the jobless, the abused, the betrayed. I hear the immigrant, the minority, the slave, the poor. I hear the orphan, the widow, the sick, the tired: How long, O Lord? How long?
It’s a song we’ve all grown used to singing in the difficult seasons of life, especially this time of year. A season of joy and celebration. A time of feasting and indulgence. The most wonderful time of the year ... and also the time of year when we realize how very far away we’ve wandered.
Because as often as the Psalmists, prophets, and people ask “How long?” of God, it’s actually a question better asked by God: How long, O people? Will you resist me forever?
“How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?” (Exodus 10:3)
“How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?” (Exodus 16:28)
“How long will this people be disrespectful to Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs that I have performed in their midst?” (Numbers 14:11)
“How long shall I put up with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me?” (Numbers 14:27)
“How long will your wicked thoughts Lodge within you?” (Jeremiah 4:14)
“How long will you remain unclean?” (Jeremiah 13:27)
“How long will you waver, You rebellious daughter?” (Jeremiah 31:22)
And it’s a question God is turning toward us, as well. How long?
In this season of longing, it may seem like God distant. It may seem like he is keeping you waiting for much longer than you can bear. But don’t mistake God’s silence for absence. In the quiet, God may actually be waiting for you.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Oh Lord, may all our questions lead us to you. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
DON’T FORGET: You can lean even further into the questions of Advent by using this free workbook I created. It includes 25 questions from the Psalms, one for each day of December ending with Christmas.
2. “We Wait for You” by Carolyn Cobb
3. “Making Advent Part of Our Story” by Jenni Lisa Howard
In this delightful episode of The Story So Far, my friend and podcast host Jenni Lisa Howard talks with her husband Will, about the meaning of Advent and ways to observe it in your every day life. It’s an honest and hopeful conversation … and only 20 minutes long (so you can listen while you’re in the Starbucks drive thru line).
4. “The Supply Chain Crisis Could Save Christmas” by Tsh Oxenreider
I’ve said the words “supply chain” more in the last few months than in all the rest of my years combined. For a country used to getting things “our way right away,” supply chain issues have really put a wrench in things. I think that’s why I loved the counterintuitive headline and message of this essay by Tsh Oxenreider at America Magazine.
“This year the supply chain crisis, illustrated by unloaded shipping containers piling up at our seaports, has led to understocked stores and unpredictable delivery times for gifts ordered online. So we are being told to order early and then order some more, before our neighbors toss everything into their own digital shopping carts,” writes Tsh. “But what if instead we recognized how little ‘just right’ gifts actually matter?”
Thanks again for sharing this time with me. As always, if you’d like to send me a note or ask a question, you can hit reply and end up in my inbox. Or you can also leave a comment on this newsletter, which will live in the archive over on Substack. It’s one of my favorite features of this platform.
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Until next time,