Where Fear Meets Hope

Susan Dunk   -  

“O little town of Bethlehem,” is one of those Christmas carols I don’t sing too often. To be clear, it’s a beautiful song, it just feels like I’m singing to a town…instead of the Babe of that town. However, in that classic Christmas song lies a lyric that sums up Advent in a single phrase:

Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

This is the heartbeat of Advent … into our darkness shone a great Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.

As we celebrate Christ’s arrival at Christmas, it’s easy to forget what it was like for those who were on the scene that first Christmas.  They were in absolute desperation for a Messiah … 400 years of captivity and silence from God can do that.

Hopes? A glimmer.
Fears? A plenty.

When our Christmas celebration is faithful, we remember Christ’s first arrival  and we have hopeful  anticipation of His second.  Here in 2017, I am far removed from the degree of desperation they had that first Christmas. The first Advent paints a picture of longing that I find foreign. There are a few things that haven’t changed though.

Hopes? Yep.
Fears? A plenty.

If I’m honest with myself I’m not well acquainted with the picture of longing the Advent gives us. I don’t mean that longing isn’t there….oh it’s there. It’s there for me as much as it is for every human. As  CS Lewis aptly said,

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

I do have longing – but I often try to fill it so I don’t feel it.

I like to use “short” things to fill the space that my longing occupies. When my heart starts to long for ‘more’, I throw a “short” thing into that long space to squash it so I don’t have to feel it.

Longing? I must be hungry… eat.
Longing? I feel down. I need caffeine.

Longing? I need a drink, a compliment, a new shirt, a new exercise regimen, admiration from friends, a glance from a handsome stranger.

Longing? All. day. long.

Too often I lack the fortitude to endure my sense of longing long enough to allow myself to feel it,  experience the desperation of it, and then turn to the only One this longing longs for – Christ my Messiah.

In my impatience, I fill that longing with “short” things to give me a quick fix … but those things are only good for treating one dimension of who I am. They can’t penetrate deep enough to reach my soul – and so I long.

Advent is the time of year when the church intentionally tunes into the depth of our longing and turn to the One who came to satisfy our longing.  If I’m honest, it makes me uncomfortable at times. I don’t think I’m alone.

Look around.

The Christmas season has become a ‘Festival of Short Things’.  Things that will do the job of distracting us from the depth of our longing. Marketers are quite possibly the most insightful diagnostics on the planet. They understand our human condition of ‘longing’ and are on the ready to give us prescriptions and “short” remedies.

I see our human pattern. I see my pattern. Thank God there is a Redemptive pattern. Thank God for Christmas.

In history, in that little town of Bethlehem, God condescend to us. He became a human baby and in doing so became Emmanuel: God with us. This God-Child grew to be the Man who died in our place to be our Saviour –  God for us.

“ You shall call his name Jesus for he shall save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

This is the Good News for all people.  All people have a longing than can only be met by the One we are created for – so this announcement is for us.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Christmas comes every year – but it also comes every Sunday when we gather. I don’t mean that in a “you can have Christmas every day of the year!” sappy kind of way. I mean that every Sunday as we gather for worship, we anticipate Advent together. We feel the longing and we are reminded that He came – and He is coming again.  

All of our “all” is met in Him.

For the gospel,