Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).
It is that time of year to ask yourself Christmas questions: “What do I want? What am I waiting for?”
No, not, “What do I want Santa to bring me for Christmas?” Not, “What am I waiting to find under the sparkling fir tree?” Those questions divert almost all of us from the true Christmas questions, the ones upon which our spiritual lives depend.
If we observe it right, Advent awakens us to our waiting. What are we waiting for? The theological answer: We wait for Christ, the One who redeems us, who brings guidance and healing and offers his very body to bridge the gulf that divides us from God.
But if we leave the answer there in that theological formula, Advent becomes a dry, sterile season, one in which we might as well succumb to commercial christmas questions and focus on what we want from Santa, what we want but would not buy for ourselves.
To truly observe Advent, to prepare for a joyful celebration of Christmas, go alone to a room with a mirror. Look at your face. Look into your eyes. If tired bags bother you, then look closer. If your eyes dart about, keyed up for the next task or to distract yourself from this awkward situation, take a breath and just look anyway.
Look until you settle in and keep your eye on your eye. If you’re like most of us, you won’t be quite satisfied. But then swallow your pride and admit that you are beautiful anyway because God sees your beauty even if you don’t look like the someone else you wish you looked like. Let that sink in. Smile. Laugh at yourself if it helps.
Forget stuff, things, amusements, drinks, even chocolate if you are strong, and ask yourself the Christmas questions, “What do I want? What am I waiting for?” Then ask, “What’s love got to do with it?” Whether you feel like it or not, answer your jaded, inner Tina Turner: “Everything.”
Yes, love has everything to do with it. The answer to the questions about what you want and what you wait for come down to whom you love and how you want to love whomever.
Now this may be a lonely time in your life, a time when the desire to love and be loved aches, a hunger that drives you or that you try to ignore. You can handle it. You don’t have to handle it alone if you open your heart to the loneliest one who ever walked, the very Lord for whom you wait whether you realize he’s the one for whom you wait, whose love you want most.
Or this may be a season of your life rich with love of friends and family. Then complacency may tempt you to ignore your hungering and thirsting. Jesus asks, “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?” (Matthew 5:46-47a).
The righteous life is not the life of heroic isolation or smug, tribal parochialism but the life of risky love, love that does not rest until all the lonely are embraced, all the imperiled, safe, all the marginalized, welcome. Let yourself hunger and thirst for this.
Close your eyes: See the faces from your daily life of those who need love. Open your eyes: See in the mirror the face of one who needs love and who needs to love. In the meeting of these faces, the reaching out of hands, the sharing of whatever God entrusts to us — which is everything we have — the waiting ends. The Christmas questions are answered.
As for God, who is the ultimate answer to your questions, the One you wait for, the One you most want, God will meet you there in front of the mirror as you stand alone and look, and God will meet you out in the world in the faces of fellow sufferers. This invisible, silent, mysterious God is everywhere to be found for those who love in God’s name.
Dress warmly. Go. Find the faces and offer your love. There Advent waiting ends for a moment. It is Christmas. Christ has come.