Come Thou Long Expected

It is all Christmasy by now, which is of course lovely. It is all wreaths and bells and hot chocolate and cider and carols and warmth and cheer.

But this December I have been thinking of Simeon, the old priest who was just waiting for Jesus to come. Just alone, expectant, in the dark.

The warmth and glow of the stable and the soft feel of a baby in her arms, for Mary, was preceded by so many months of awkward pregnancy, misunderstanding, probably feeling led astray by God, in the wrong place with nowhere to go, being led around on a donkey by a clumsy old carpenter who probably had no idea, angels notwithstanding, what do with his pregnant wife.

By this time Elizabeth would be nursing little John, well past the age of having a baby, after all those years that she was shut out in the cold. All those years her desire for a baby always dangled in front of her menacingly by sisters, neighbors, friends, all those years of barrenness. Taunted by the friendly smiles of the other women whose wombs worked properly and on schedule. Hers was a long advent, yet maybe the thrill of her baby was all the deeper for all the barren years?

I do know that we live mostly in expectation, that we are mostly barren women, blind old priests, and bored shepherds who got stuck with the night shift. But we must not give up the expectation. Or even if we do– maybe some of the shepherds had fallen asleep– the angelic chorus might wake us up. But it doesn’t always come with bright lights and flashes, Jesus wasn’t in the display of a Macy’s front window. When Simeon beheld him the baby was probably not glowing, and may have had a damp diaper. Just a baby.

Anyway, it seems like Advent should be more about admitting our barren wombs, about awaiting the manger and the myrrh, not about sending out Christmas cards that proclaim our past year of successes and accomlishments. We are creatures of expectation, creatures awaiting the gift, and during Advent we must pray with the psalmist, How long, Lord, how Long?


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