Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Renewal - In the Edges of the Day

Today I have the honor of sharing words from one of my favorite people. We've written together. We've sipped tea together. We've watched our children play together. There is something about the way she writes that makes me want to jump up and down and say "YES!" When she agreed to share her thoughts with us for the Advent series, I knew it would be good. I wasn't disappointed.



Advent Scripture Readings:

“The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
   on them has light shone…
For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
   and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2, 6. (ESV)

“As a mother comforts her child,
   so will I comfort you;
   and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:13 (NIV)



Life comes with its own set of expectations, doesn’t it? I was supposed to be debt free and financially stable, have a house, a garden, a well-behaved puppy for the rosy-cheeked children to play with, all well before the age of 30. I mean, isn’t that what all the grown-ups do?


Oops. I’m quite a ways past 30 now. My ideas and ideals have been worn down a bit over time. I don’t know if that picket fence will one day be mine, or not. I do know that I have had to readjust my expectations many times over, and I know how hard it is to keep on looking up when life is letting me down. That’s when I really long for a renewal; of faith, hope, love. I want to be renewed to my depths. I long for the healing rain of joy and peace that refreshes my thirsty soul.


There are so many advertisements in my face during this hurried, almost frenzied time of year. They promise me joy. They promise me renewal. They even imply happiness. They assure me I can renew my home with gorgeous accessories; I can renew my energy with vitamins and soy; I can renew my skin and put a healthy glow on my tired face with magical serums. Eventually, one of those promises will wear my defenses thin, and I’ll buy into the sparkle. But it doesn’t long cure what ails me, if it works at all. I begin to see through the promotional spin. Who can actually guarantee this promise of renewal? Really. Are we destined an entire life of unmet expectations, or is there more to each story?


“Renew.” It’s not just a marketing term. The idea of making something new or strong again has a whole thread of redemptive stories across history.


Long before the geniuses of the business world began selling renewal to us, we all had this hunger and thirst for that something more, something filling, something lasting. Something to make what is broken a thing of beauty again. When we are born, it is from darkness to light, from contented to wanting nourishment at our mother’s breast. We spend the rest of our days reliving this journey of darkness to light, searching for sustenance and peace along the way, crying when we are feeling helpless. And God is here, to tend to our need for aid and comfort, as a mother her child.


In what must have seemed endless days before the Messiah arrived, Israel sat in the darkness of unrest, going back and forth between seeking distractions and praying for the Light of the world to draw near. We, too, have tried the distractions of buying and selling and trying useless things on. We have engaged in our share of wars and wanderings. We have wrung our hands waiting for that Savior to show up. We have cried “how long?”


For Israel, the long-expected Savior did arrive. But who was looking for him to show up in the arms of a poor young prophetess? Who saw beyond that girl named Mary, and into the very heart and soul of our craved renewal? There certainly wasn’t a line around the building when she gave birth to the Christ child.


Maybe we know better now. And I say maybe. Maybe we know where to look for this Savior now. We have heard the story countless times. We have let it touch us, change us, bring us hope. It’s the same every year, except maybe with the growing years and all their challenges it gets a bit harder to believe in what this Savior is doing for and in us. Maybe it’s just a little bit harder to wonder at this bible story and the miracles that we keep hearing about; miracles that seem so far removed from our present day. Maybe we wish some angels would appear in the sky reminding us to “fear not.”


Has the fire of Christmas carols past turned to ashes in our mouths? The children we once were are still inside of us, longing to have a kind, attentive parent come rushing to our side when we call out in the night. Embrace that inner childlike longing and pray with me:


Come, thou long expected Immanuel. Come, quickly, come! Shine your light on our present day. We feel the urgency. We know our needs cannot only be met through more products, more sleep, more friends, more heroism. We still need a Savior! More than ever. Be with us this Advent season. Sit with us in the pain of troubles, injustices, and unmet expectations. Restore our souls and renew our faith with your comforting Presence in this time of our great need. When we cry out in the dark, let us know that you are drawing near.


“O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant us thy peace.” (Agnus Dei)

“O Come, Thou King of nations bind
In one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

(O Come, O Come Emmanuel. A traditional Advent hymn, author unknown.)





Jamie Wright Bagley resides in Chicagoland where she spends her days wearing an assortment of hats, including writing, homeschooling, and being a special needs mom. She prioritizes family and simple living. She values quality time with friends, and will never ever turn down a good cuppa [tea]. In stolen moments she writes her heart out at http://www.jamiewrightbagley.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @BagsEnd04.