Look On Us, We Pray
As I write these words, my kids and my wife are putting the finishing touches on the Christmas decorations around the house. There are giggles and lights, there is colour and warmth on a brutally cold day. There are happy sounds. And the happy sounds make me happy, too.
But it’s impossible for my thoughts not to drift in darker directions, too, even amidst the giggles and the lights. For whatever reason, this has been a need-filled fall season. So many people struggling. So many people limping along from crisis to crisis. So many people desperate for love, for acceptance, for belonging. So many people for whom God’s peace and God’s plan seem utterly hidden. So many people needing so much help. The need is always there, I know. But for whatever reason, it has felt more acute this fall.
On this eve of a new Christian year, as I stare out my window, as I look at the beautiful, colourful lights, as I listen to the Christmas music drifting up the stairs, as I brace myself for the busy season ahead, I find myself in a longing mood.
The words from Isaiah that I will preach from tomorrow are ringing in my head….
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down…
How we could use some rending, some tearing, some ripping and clawing at this sin-encrusted, scabby world where the weak get kicked around, where the strong so often seem to sail along unencumbered, where disease and death, war and sadness, hatred and division seem to come so naturally to us all. How we could use something to come, something from outside the system, something out of the ordinary, something we’ve never seen before to overwhelm us, reorient us, forgive us, something to invade our pathetic, paltry “normal” and give us a vision of newness. Something—someone!—to stand us up straight and set us on the path to life.
Yes, I am in a longing mood.
I long for the pain to subside for a number of people that I know and love who have known the wrenching agony of losing a child.
I long for relief for those who must daily navigate the dull fog of chronic pain.
I long for forgiveness and reconciliation for those who have ruined relationships, who find themselves persistently at odds with a spouse, a child, a parent.
I long for peace in the many parts of our world who have for so long been soaked in war and death.
I long for safety and a sense of home for the many refugees around our world whose lives are carelessly blown around by the whims of the greedy and the powerful.
I long for a day when we, as Christians—when I—will be known less for the positions we hold about “issues” than for a love that looks, sounds, and feels like Jesus.
I long for this heart of selfish stone to beat as one with that of my Maker.
I long for the way of Jesus to become like muscle memory—that I would, however gradually, come to be more like the Man from Galilee, that this One would increasingly take up residence in the words I speak, the things I do, the manner in which I live and move in the world.
This Advent, I am looking for divine irruptions of grace, forgiveness, restoration, judgment, pardon, new life.
I am, with the prophet Isaiah, in a pleading mood:
Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
do not remember our sins forever.
Oh, look on us, we pray,
for we are all your people.
We are the work of your hand. Don’t be angry with us forever, dear God. Look away from our sins, forget about them, and help us to forget them, too.
Look on us, we pray, for we are your people. And we need you to come.