mourning in lonely exile

Advent hits me harder than lent.  It's the waiting, I think:  the quiet contrast of a teen-aged mother to the  holidaze of shopping and hurrying.  It's the reminder that we're not just counting down to Christmas but to the second coming of Christ, when this too shall be made right.

The waiting is the hardest part, after all. 

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
My spirit is acquainted with loneliness, the echo of exile.  The stranger and alien are familiar roles.

Advent reminds me gently that my Lord knows that path better than I ever will.  Born a refugee during a genocide, his young family spent their first years in exile.  Returning home, theirs was an occupied province where the realities of the Pax Romana were far removed from the shalom of God.

To follow Christ is to drink the cup of suffering.  We'll never feel truly at Home until he calls us there.


This summer at the the U2 show,  we had a little church up in section 521. One of my favorite songs, of theirs or anyone else's, remains this:

I have climbed highest mountains 
I have run through the fields 
Only to be with you 
I have run 
I have crawled 
I have scaled these city walls 
Only to be with you 

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for 

I have kissed honey lips 
Felt the healing in her fingertips 
It burned like a fire 
This burning desire 

I have spoke with the tongue of angels 
I have held the hand of a devil 
It was warm in the night 
I was cold as a stone   

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for 

I believe in the Kingdom Come 
Then all the colors will bleed into one 
But yes I'm still running 

You broke the bonds 
And you loosed the chains 
Carried the cross 
Of my shame 
You know I believe it   

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for 

Years ago, at a youthworkers' convention, a christian band covered it, changing the last words to "I finally found what I'm looking for," all smiles and jubilant arm waving.

In tidying up the loose ends, they missed the point.  Their version was hollow, and its lyrics rung false.

Have any of us found what we're looking for?

As Christians, we live the in-between.  We know the hope of resurrection that defeated sin and death on the cross, and we have glimpsed a coming Kingdom, but it's not yet fully realized this side of heaven

We look around, and much is broken

Our sisters acheOur brothers hunger.  

During advent, we await a King who will mend all the broken places: not just the Babe in a manger long ago, but the One who will come in glory, whose Kingdom will have no end.

So we rejoice, even in suffering, because exile is not the end of the Story:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new.”

We remember and take heart.  We remind each other that we're waiting for that which we have already seen.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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