Distance is a big deal to me right now. That is to say that I am thinking a lot about the distances in my life that complicate things. Space and separation makes each day, each choice, each thought, awkward and at times painful. Most of the times I am thinking about how I can get from here to there.
I am thinking specifically about the separation between me and my family right now. We are separated by miles, by time zones, by state lines, by the calendar, by schedules. Distance is a challenge that is not easily remedied and there is little one can do to prepare for it. You just have to work around the challenge and plan for life that is closer together. If that is not possible you make plans to make the very most of the times that you do have together so that distance does not discourage your love and/or concern for others. Separation should never cause us to not care and not involve ourselves as much as possible in the lives of those we love the most. Our distance will be closed on December 20th and that may very well be the last time I ever allow them out of my sight and reach. 🙂
Advent is about separation and distance and life interrupted. It is about looking for a messiah and longing for God to put the hope back in our world. Advent is about a great distance that seems to be separating the right now from the right world that the prophets pointed us towards. Advent is about waiting, anticipating, preparing for that one moment in time that makes everything different. Advent is the season of separation that makes our Christmas so meaningful. Advent helps us to hold our breath with anticipation as we look upon the face of the child-king for the first time and hear the angels singing his prelude to glory.
But if we are not careful we might think that the promises of God through Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, etc have little to do with us. We might feel separated from God’s good work in Jesus and that we are waiting for something else to occur. Perhaps we might think we are due another “big gift” of God because the first was for Israel or for another age. We might let all of our Christmas joy be wrapped up in a future hope or a bet on a better tomorrow. We might spend every day and sing every song thinking about how we can get from here to there. We shouldn’t.
What God does for Israel (in fact what He does for all the world) in and through Christ, He does for us. We are not separated from this good news and great act by distance, time, space, or anything else. God’s plan is to bring heaven and earth together at long last fulfilling His promise to Abraham, keeping His law to Israel, crowning His eternal dominion though line of David, and completing His prophecy to the exiles. It is in Christ – then and now, in Bethlehem and in Boston, for Israel and for Iceland – that this new kingdom is inaugurated.
The question is not “how do we get from here to there?” It is a question of “What does it mean that God has come from there to here?” It means everything. It means that distance is not our enemy any longer. It means that time can not put our salvation in a box and keep it from us. It means that the spaces in our life are not empty of God’s promises/presence, but utterly full of His presence in every nook and cranny that concerns us. It means that before God helps us, saves us, or protects us, He is just “with us.” And that is the good news of our God who saw us here and rushed from the heavenly there to seek us and to save us.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.