Reading Luke’s narrative of the first Advent tells us much about those who lived during that time, but is it possible that his words penned so long ago also say something about us?
Prophecy about the expected birth of Jesus had been around for a long time for those who had heard it and yet the question that came to the lips of more than one or two were, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting?” A casual reading might make it too easy to scoff at the uncertainty that lays behind the question. After all we may think, how could they have missed this?
There can be many answers that come to mind including what Luke says:
“He said, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. There are others who need stories. But even with stories some of them aren’t going to get it: Their eyes are open but don’t see a thing,Luke 8:10 (MSG)
Their ears are open but don’t hear a thing.”
Were they asleep or only dull of hearing and murky in sight? The people of the first Advent knew the One was to come, but what did they expect?
What we expect often determines what we see and hear. There is a narrative at work in each of our hearts, minds, and spirits that has been sown over the course of our lifetime. It is that narrative that we believe to be true and we take in things we see and hear that align with that narrative and set aside those things that do not.
And narratives run through every area of our lives and if we are not alert to them, they open the door to deception and choices that lead us down paths the Lord never intended we take.
At the time of the first Advent many were surely looking for a king who would bring the harsh rule of the Roman Empire to an end. Others were looking for a warrior who would take over by force and root out the evil conditions so many were enduring during that time so that justice could prevail. Despite the prophecies they had heard, they were not thinking about Him coming as a helpless baby to a nondescript couple in a stable in Bethlehem. That didn’t fit their narrative of what they wanted to see happen, hoped would happen.
They missed seeing how Jesus comes in the midst of the ordinary, the common small places and things in life.
John gives an even more unique image of the One that was to come and will come again:
“The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word.John 1:1-2 (MSG)
The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.”
How abstract it can sound that when mankind was looking for a king or a warrior “the Word” was sent.
“Some people may wonder: why was the light of God given in the form of language? How is it conceivable that the divine should be contained in such brittle vessels as consonants and vowels? This question betrays the sin of our age: to treat lightly the ether which carries the light-waves of the spirit. What else in the world is as capable of bringing man and man together over the distances in space and time? Of all things on the earth, words alone never die. They have so little matter and so much meaning…”Abraham Heschel in Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson
Scientists and researchers spend their days looking to try to see what they have not seen previously in order to understand it or discover secrets previously unknown. Yet, many of them looking through telescopes, microscopes and vast amounts of data can miss what is there. Consider how Alexander Fleming returned to his lab in Scotland in 1928 after a two- week vacation to discover mold had accidentally contaminated a culture plate of staphylococcus that led to what he didn’t expect – the discovery of penicillin.
I think God must delight in times He surprises us. It reveals how far beyond our imagination He is, but yet He wants us to “see” Him and “hear” Him, to not miss Him.
In the midst of the “not yet” as we wait on the second Advent, might we also miss Him?
I think the key is not only whether or not we are awake and watching, but whether our hearts are beating at one with Him as a result of our intimacy with Him.
Our heart is never fooled in recognizing the person on whom our affections are set. We sense the person before they even speak when they enter a room. We recognize the fragrance that is them before they ever touch our hand. It is a knowing born of much time spent together.
After all, where it is, we first encounter Jesus? Does He not come knocking at our heart?
“For those who listen for Christ’s coming, a knock sounds over and over again. The things that come forth are not necessarily highly spiritual. Sometimes they are very simple things.”Mary Geisen quoting Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt in The Advent Narrative
Scripture tells us the Second Advent will not look like the first, but not unlike the First Advent, those whose hearts are already aligned with Him will surely not miss that glorious appearing.
Yes, 2020 is a different season, but we must not lose sight of Him in the midst of all that would cloud our sight or distort our hearing.
“When God wrote the script for our lives, He linked hardship and goodness in an effort to reach us in our reality. Independence is admirable, but dependence on the One who created us is where we meet Hope for the first time.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative