C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, suggests that we are a people of deep and unending desire (https://www.cslewis.com/us). He further states that our unending quest for satisfaction reveals a deeper and often confounding truth about what it means to be human; what it means to be whole!
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”
We are a people of deep desire. We find that our desires, by in large, remain unfulfilled. It seems we are an ever longing and always wanting people. The shopping saturated Christmas season is one of our most prolific expressions of this reality. Many will search and seek and hunt and barter; attempting to find items – items that will bring us joy. But we long for more than mere items and the joy possessions can provide.
Perhaps it is from this perspective, in this context, that we can best hear the words of the prophet in Isaiah 64:1 when he exclaims:
Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
Isaiah pictures the heavens as a vast curtain concealing God and he asks that God would rip them apart and step into his world with his presence felt! Isaiah’s yearning, his desire, is so deep that he asks for God’s fullest and most awesome presence.
In this yearning and longing – expressed in Isaiah’s posture of watching for and waiting on God – his desires (for God’s presence to burst forth) are unearthed by and aimed toward God in the hope that He will come down, dine and dwell!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who spent his final days in a Nazi military prison, suggests the season of Advent as a time in which our desires are often unearthed, yet increasingly misaimed. He further states that Advent might become a season in which our desires are aimed by and toward God.
A season of deep and lasting transformation.
A transformation that grabs us and moves us into a deeply meaningful relationship with the God of redemption.
In his Essential Writings, we read,
“Advent creates new men and women. Look up, you whose eyes are fixed on this earth, you who are captivated by the events and changes on the surface of this earth. Look up, you who turned away from heaven to this ground because you had become disillusioned. Look up, you whose eyes are laden with tears, you who mourn the loss of all that the earth has snatched away. Look up, you who cannot lift up your eyes because you are so laden with guilt. “Look up, your redemption is drawing near.”†
Advent is the season in the historic Christian calendar that signifies a period of watching and waiting for God: who is unguarded in glory and unmatched in mystery (http://www.transformingcenter.org/2015/11/entering-advent-hurry-wait/). This season of waiting on and watching for the Messiah provides an opportunity for unearthing our deepest desires and aiming them toward Christ in the hope of his presence with us.
What might we find when we look up toward our Lord whose redemption draws near, rather than at the lure and luster of purchases that will not satisfy; that leaves us longing for more?
The Scriptures indicate at least three discoveries unearthed in the heart of they who wait on and watch for God. They are,
- A God whose face shines down on us!
- One who is unguarded in glory!
- A God unmatched in mystery!
A GOD WHOSE FACE SHINES ON YOU!
“Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock. O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. 7 Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us.” ~ Ps. 80:1 – 3 & 7
The phrase “make your face shine down upon us” is a beautiful and oft repeated prayer of the Hebrew nation. It’s one which invites and celebrates the hope of blessing, the joy of presence. It’s a blessing reminiscent of Aaron’s blessing in Numbers. One given and received by God’s people of faith century after century.
Remarking on this ancient benediction, Dallas Willard notes,
“There’s so much about the face of God in the Bible. One of the most precious things that we can have is living before the shining face of God. Now, if you have trouble with the shining face, find a grandparent somewhere and watch their face shine on their grandchild; that can give you a little idea. There is such radiance that comes out of a person with a shining face. And your face is meant to shine. Glory is meant to be shared from God to human beings. Glory always shines. It always shines.”
Why engage in watchful waiting? Waiting on and watching for the God reveals the wonder of His glory and majesty of His mystery.
GOD UNGUARDED IN GLORY AND UNMATCHED IN MYSTERY
“As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! 3 When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:2 -4
Isaiah – as he waits on and watches for God – envisions a God whose awesome presence brings His might, power and deliverance to the very people who wait for Him! Isaiah’s words are matched only by his tone, which is filled with wonder and awe at His God whose awesome deeds go beyond all human expectation! In a world of over promise and under delivery, this truth of God’s awesome power in His presence is refreshing indeed!
His mystery and wonder dig deeply into our soul – those places of discomfort, sin, problem and pain – and reveals the inner deficiencies within and all around us. At the same time, the mystery reveals a God who not only covers those deficiencies but crafts good from them and shapes us by them!
A season of waiting on and watching for God can reveal His good as we seek the refuge of His face. As the Gospel of John reminds us, in our Messiah the face of God shines brightly and it’s this time of year when His face is needed most!