Pater noster, qui es in caelis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum,
adveniat regnum tuum,
fiat voluntas tua,
sicut in caelo, et in terra.
When I am asked about Advent, I try to point to the Our Father, which in Latin “contains the season” as it were, both the word and the spirit of it all. “Adveniat regnum tuum,” Thy kingdom come, the middle of the triple “commands” that make up the first half of the Lord’s Prayer. I suppose people often forget this, that we are making demands—of both earth and heaven—when we pray that prayer, that the name of God be sanctified, that God’s will be “made,” and of course, that His kingdom come. And in Advent, we make similar demands, but this time of God Himself: come Lord Jesus, come.
Isaiah is the “book of the month” for Advent, and if you are steeped in said book long enough, you might get a little testy---and bossy too. It seems sometimes there are not enough cities in the world for the Lord to reduce to smoldering ash in those pages, and though we modern Christians do our darndest to filet the brimstone Prophet so as only the “Is it I, Lord?” parts remain in our collective memory, the truth of the matter is this: before God shows Himself as the babe of Bethlehem, He manifests first as an endless, unquenchable torch. Every time a Christian north of the equator sees purple and the time honored “Starbucks-is-switching-from-pumpkin-spice-to-peppermint-mocha” sign of the times, our thoughts should turn not first to candy canes, or even the pregnant Mary, but to ruins of metropolises now populated by wandering wild asses (Isaiah 32:14). Rather than jingle bells, mad and meandering braying is the soundtrack of the season.
All this is to say: it’s no wonder we avoid the “bossy” nature of this season, where we up the ante of the Christ’s own prayer He taught us, and with laser focus reduce it to the simpler mantra of “come Lord Jesus, come.” If your nose does not know the sulfury smell of Isaiah’s prose, you have all the time in the world to be lulled asleep by glossy episodes of hyper-Dickens nostalgia (this time, with more sugar!). If you can avoid (as we seem to at all costs) the glowering eyes of the man whose very lips were purged with a heavenly burning coal, you don’t want Christ to come now—you have only made it through your first helping of ham.
But this has all been said before, and is a tired point. The world wants to fatten us up and forget that we are, indeed, anxiously awaiting a savior. Of course we do a splendidly horrific job of ignoring the uncomfortable parts of Scripture. What Advent retreat or bulletin insert does not remind us that this is a “season of expectation,” and who among us has not trotted out an Advent calendar or Jesse Tree to make this point to our kids? We’re trying, Bo. Do you not see what we are up against?
Let me say this all in another way, because the fire and brimstone are not the main point I am making. For me, it’s the donkey wondering through the wasted cities that I think we are forgetting. A God who is angry and punishes His errant people is not all that exciting or special among the gods. But one who turns over His prize jewel, the city of His Altar, Jerusalem itself, to the wild jackasses of the world—ones like me, for instance—now that is a surprising and different manner altogether.
You see, what is most inexplicable to me is not that the more comfortable Christians are, the more difficult it is for them to understand the expectant nature of Advent. I get that. I have had more ham half way through December than anyone but the Iowa pork industry would be happy to admit. And it is not confounding in any way that we shy away from the warnings of Isaiah that who have much, insofar as we ignore our brethren who have little, will suffer greatly at the hands of the One who is Justice itself. Who doesn’t want to hide that from the front of their minds as they rejoice in plenty?
What is crazy to me is that God Himself has taught us to not only make demands of Him, but that our salvation rests on the zeal of our insistence that the Deity does what we ask of Him. To put it another way: I don’t think we only shrink from demanding Come Lord Jesus, come because we are fat and lazy. I think the inverse is true as well—we have become fat and lazy because we have stopped demanding that the Lord come. This goes beyond the self-loathing or misanthropic tendencies of the West. This is not merely some claim about the nihilistic underpinnings of consumerism, or the soul-crushing weight of modern regimes of power. I am not making the philosophical or metaphysical point you may think I am. I have something much simpler in mind.
Have some ambition. This marvelous story of Jerusalem and the Messiah and the chosen people and everything else was not about you. It has gone on for thousands of years, and who knows how long the Lord will tarry henceforth. But at this appointed time, here you are, a meandering jackass in the ruins of God’s chosen jewel. For reasons you may never understand, He has given it over to you. Your time has come. Make the demand. Come Lord Jesus, Come. Don’t settle for candy canes and wretched over-cooked coffee from the Pacific Northwest. Bray away.