There’s a tension that won’t go away. Try as I might to mitigate its effects the strain is palpable; longing and yearning…what is flies in the face of what should be. No aspect of life has escaped. We yearn with incessant longing, but as a result of the fall all of life, is often hard and filled with unmet expectations. Our longing manifests itself in frustration and alienation. Can we escape it? Is it possible to get beyond this tension?
What if the tension, and what if the yearning are indications; signposts pointing to something far more significant? What if the incessant longing for something better and different is an indicator of something broken and seemingly unfixable? What if estrangement and its satisfaction here and now are impossible? In 2002 the contemporary rock group Coldplay asked an even more penetrating question,
Am I, a part of the cure
Or am I part of the disease?
Or am I part of the disease?
What if the problem with longing is me? What if the cure I long for is held in abeyance by the contagion I carry? What if the biggest obstacle to satisfying my yearning is rooted deeply inside of who I am?
One of my favorite Advent stories is the story of Simeon found in Luke chapter 2. Simeon, a righteous, clear-eyed, and wizened temple worshiper was a man consumed with longing. He looked at the world around him and saw brokenness. He knew something of the prevalent and encroaching darkness and yet pined for something or Someone better. When the young child Jesus was brought to the temple for the rite of purification Simeon’s gaze fell upon Him. In that moment Simeon’s yearning, like a man overlong parched for water, found his thirsting sated. For Simeon the answer to the longing was found in deliverance, but even more so, in a Deliverer. Simeon describes his yearning being satisfied by seeing. He exclaims,
‘…my eyes have seen your salvation….’(v. 30)
In Jesus Simeon saw deliverance, not just for the world, but for himself. Long bound by chains of his own making, in Jesus Simeon was confronted by his longing, and confronted by his own need and the needs of the world around him. In Simeon’s beatific Advent vision every longing pooled up with satisfaction. Salvation, was found in Jesus in the Incarnation, and in Him the telos of longing, had come.
Simeon wasn’t the only one who longed for something. In generations prior the patriarch Abraham had been whispered a promise. And Jesus, of Himself, spoke as the anecdote to Abraham’s long dormant yearning in John 8,
‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ (V. 56)
Abraham’s longing was rooted deeply in the covenantal framework given to the first woman in Genesis 3. One would come, it said. He is promised, it said. Wait, it said.
For all of those like me that still yearn. For all of those that see the brokenness in both the world and in themselves, and long for the overdue mending to come. For those that find themselves longing and waiting, at times impatiently, for things to be different. For those that daily experience the tension that won’t go away…we wait. In this interregnum we wait for the twice-fulfilled promise, once as Bethlehem’s Child and once again soon as a cosmic reigning King.
‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’
– Phillip Brooks, O Little Town of Bethlehem, 1868
-Dan J. Morse