Sunday, December 02, 2012

December 3, 2012

Today's texts

So the Lord God expelled him [Adam] from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he had been taken (Genesis 3:23).

Go up on a high mountain, messenger of Zion. Shout as loud as you can, messenger of Jerusalem! Shout fearlessly, say to the towns of Judah, 'Here is your God.' Here is Lord Yahweh coming with power … . He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep (Isaiah 40-9-11).


I remember Christmas Eve when I was 15.

The stone block church on the west edge of town was festooned for Christmas. Garland hung around the walls. A giant white star with gold glitter hung high from the ceiling, lifting worshipers eyes if not also their hearts.

The star shimmered in a spotlight Pastor Maxim trained on it for the children’s program the week before. It was a high-tech special effect for our village, the highlight of the season for our church.

But a week later on Christmas Eve there was no light, no shimmering star in my heart, only darkness, the lonely hunger of a heart longing for a peace nowhere to be found.

I sat alone in the darkness of the back pew, weeping, wondering if whatever my heart needed to be happy, to feel known and understood, would ever come.

Adolescent angst, I suppose. “Growing pains, “adults might have told me had I possessed the courage or words to name what was in me. “Get over it,” I was told if I moped about. “It will pass.”

But it didn’t. It just kept going, and it still does.

There was a longing in me deeper than the lonely disorientation of being 15 and misunderstood. I felt the grip of a yearning common to human souls everywhere … and of every age.

It is the longing of exiles for home. We want to come home but don’t know the way.

A deep ache in the human heart feels its separation from the Love who made it, the Love who wants it, the Love who gives rest and peace, assuring us that we are wanted and treasured and always will be.

We live east of Eden, far from the garden of God’s constant nearness, the only true home for our restless hearts.

It is no surprise that the poetry of Isaiah, spoken to exiles long ago, tugs at our hearts and stirs longings we try to bury beneath layers of busyness. If we are lucky, those longings never leave us.

That Christmas Eve, years ago, the prophet’s words released a torrent of tears in the back pew of the old stone church: “He will feed his sheep. He will gather the lambs in his arms … and carry them in his bosom.”

That’s what I wanted then and still need now. It’s what we all need.

So, come, Lord Jesus, gather us in. Carry us in your arms. Take us to the depth of your heart where Love abides.

For prayer & reflection

• When do you want to come home but don’t know the way?

• What do Isaiah’s words stir in you? What longing or desire for this Christmas?

• What memories, joys, hopes or pains are awakened by today’s reflection?

Another voice

But your word, O God, is faithful, your arm O Lord is strong; you stand in the midst of nations and you will right the wrong. You will feed your flock like a shepherd, the lambs you’ll gently hold; in pastures of peace you’ll lead them, and bring them to your fold.

(“There’s A Voice in the Wilderness,” James Lewis Milligan, 1908)

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