Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).
Will you escape your troubles this Christmas? Will you take a reprieve from the bad news? Will you declare it a children’s holiday and let Santa reign?
Who could blame you? You need a break. You need a dose of joy after another year of incessant, heart-numbing news of torment and catastrophe. At least you can join the children and let their innocence minister to you amid the cares of the world.
The Advent season with its climax, Christmas, is holy, a time set apart. We expect something new and different, and we should. Yet, sacred times condition and answer all time. The questions and yearnings of our hearts throughout the year raise the existential questions that Advent intensifies and answers. Our everyday hopes and hungers condition Christmas, at least for the practicing Christian. The nominal Christian escapes and leaves it at that.
Expect joy this Christmas, and remember that joy only comes at the end of a suffering road. Expect sacred time this Advent, and remember that all the disillusionment, outrage, and sadness of the news and your own tragedies and losses gather up your days in what Howard Thurman calls, “the stillness of the Waiting Moment.” But first you must acknowledge that you are not a spectator but a participant in the bad news for which you seek consolation. The world’s negativity begins in every heart, yours and mine. Thurman leads our confession:
The inner awareness of our private poverty closes in on us. We would love but are not skilled at the art. We would give but we do not know to what or to whom. We would seek Thee but there is so little heart in our quest. We would triumph over our weakness but the zeal ever escapes us. We would honor the light within but there is so much comfort in the darkness. We would pray but our spirits cannot even focus on our needs; the intimate awareness of our private poverty closes in on us.
If this dose of adult reality seems to spoil Christmas, take heart. Thurman just described what it feels like to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus did not condemn or shame us for that condition. Jesus blessed us and promised that insofar as we feel the pangs of that inner poverty, we will be filled. Thurman closes with a prayer of thanksgiving:
This is not all, thank God! There is a spirit within and about us that broods over every tiding, encircling all our needs. It breathes through the Waiting Moment, cradling all that is. We thank Thee, our Father, for such a Witness of Thyself. Let us into the awareness of Thy deep intent that we may know thy purpose in the human story and in the private way. We would not be turned aside from Thee by all the evil tidings, by all the wasteland of our spirits. Often it is so hard to find Thee – find Thee we must. Hold us steady in Thy grace that we may be found of Thee. How blessed, O God, is the ingathering of the Waiting Moment!