Saturday, December 2, 2006

How long, O Yahweh?

Last week I had the privilege of spending a few days in Prague, Czech Republic, with some friends. One day we visited the Jewish Quarter of this beautiful city of countless bridges. Next to a tiny, egregiously overcrowded burial plot -- the only land allotted to Jews for interment for three centuries -- stood the Pinkas Synagogue. On its interior walls were written the full name, birthdate, and date of death for all 77,000-plus known Czechoslovakian Jews who perished under the evils of the Third Reich from 1939-45. It was incredibly moving.*

During these past few weeks standing at the cusp of the Advent season -- not the Christmas season, which begins when the Light of God's Son enters our world late on Christmas Eve -- the narrative of Luke 1-2 has walked through the chambers of my mind, challenging me in what the Coming of the Messiah really means, and means to me. While at the synagogue those like the Virgin Mary, the priest Simeon, and the prophetess Anna came to mind, who were eagerly awaiting "the consolation of Israel" and "the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:25, 38). They may have been back within the physical boundaries of the Promised Land, but centuries of foreign occupation and oppression pointed them to the fact that they were still in exile, awaiting their homecoming in the kingdom of God. And something tells me that the erosion and pain the Jews have had to face is, really, that of all of us who belong to the new Israel of God by faith in his crucified and risen Messiah.

Am I so content with my life right now and what I have seen of God and his redemption that I no longer yearn with such pangs for our King's Second Coming? The Apostle Paul said that he groaned and longed for release from the pains of this life -- be they persecutions, illnesses, discouragement, slandering, his own sin -- into the freedom and glory of life in intimate, relational presence with his Lord when "what is mortal will be swallowed up by life" (2 Cor. 5:1-5; Rom. 8:18-25). Am I discontent with the now? Do we long with eager yearning for Christ to come, slay all enemies of his church, and make all things new? Is the news of a coming Savior the chief desire of ours?

O Mighty God, you have blessed us with your Son's coming to defeat sin and death and offer the promise of life and rescue to all who would flee to him. Free us from the love of the things of this world that cause us to sit in idleness and some discontent with the fact that it will all one day -- suddenly, like a thief -- be done away with, and you will be the sole source of joy to remain. May we learn to fix our hope fully on the grace that is to be ours at your revelation. Amen.

*I thought it was especially poignant that on the synagogue's interior was written Lamentations 1:12: "Is it nothing to all you who pass by this way? Look and see if there is any pain like my pain which was severely dealt out to me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of His fierce anger."

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