Friday, December 9, 2011

Advent and the Kingdom Coming: Emptiness is Fullness

Last night I ran into a former student of mine at an event downtown, where she reminded me that it's Advent. Sadly, I needed this reminder. I've been so busy trying to survive the end of the semester that I've almost forgotten to read my daily experiences through Advent. Which is exactly what I'm arguing in the book that we shouldn't do in any season. Ideally, we should let the narrative of the liturgical season frame how we see the world. Instead, I've all too often let the Flat World define me.

All is not lost, however. This week I've also been talking with a student who is depressed about the brokenness of the world. I share her tendency to be overwhelmed by both history and current events, seeing how much violence, death, destruction, and oppression has occurred and still occurs every day, all around the globe. There's often little sign that God's Kingdom is ruling. "The world is so screwed up!" said this student.

But this is exactly where we should be in Advent:  We should be frustrated with the brokenness. We should be experiencing the "lonely exile here," as evoked in the haunting Advent hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." We should be hungering for God's rule to arrive here on earth as in heaven. We should be longing for God's shalom (peace, justice, righteousness) to be restored.

This is what it means to experience the Fullness of Time right now--a Fullness that means entering into the Emptiness of the Hebrew people longing for a return from exile, the Emptiness that Christ experienced in the Incarnation (Phil 2:7), and the Emptiness that the disciples experienced after the Crucifixion.

In morning prayer on Tuesday, Psalm 74:19 jumped out and spoke of the Emptiness of exile: "Look upon your covenant; the dark places of the earth are haunts of violence."

As we ponder these dark places and their haunts of violence, we can pray for the restoration of the covenant: for a return from exile, for redemption of the world, and for resurrection to eternal life. Experiencing the depths of this brokenness just points us back to the story that begins with Advent. We long for the Kingdom to come and the Fullness of God's reign to begin.

Come quickly, Lord.

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