Baruch 5:1-9Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,Advent is a time of waiting and preparation. For most of my life, I have had before me the sense that this time of waiting and preparation are more about getting myself ready to receive the coming of the Christ. Sometimes that feels like preparing as one would who is looking forward to a new baby coming home, with rooms being painted and furniture being built-a new infrastructure being raised in honor of a little person who will change the history of the family, of the home. Sometimes that feels like preparing the house for guests (even at the last minute), with the fluffing of pillows, cleaning, organizing and setting up some refreshment for the anticipated people who will soon deliver new energy to domestic routines. The thing is, all those imaginings wind up centering around the idea that Laura and I will soon be welcoming someone into our home and into our relatively settled lives.
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name,
"Righteous Peace, Godly Glory."
Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
look toward the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went out from you on foot,
led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you,
carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God's command.
For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.
Even as we prepare and wait, we assume that there will be a place to which we can welcome the one who is about to arrive. I count that as a blessing, and am sorry that it hits me so hard as one only in this moment when our world is in the grip of one of the largest migrations of human beings since World War II. The Syrian Civil War and the unrest caused by Daesh in the Levant regions between Syria, Iran and Iraq have displaced millions, and so we in our information age are getting minute to minute news about the scope and span of an historic humanitarian crisis that beggars the imagination. We are also challenged with responding to this massive influx of humanity in the midst of terrorist attacks that are timed and intended to disrupt our willingness to trust and reach out Even as people are fleeing into exile, others are being frightened into locking their doors (and borders) as those in need pass by.
It's terrifying because we see the horror of need on such a global scale that it dehumanizes people in desperate hope of care and shelter. It's terrifying because we are now seeing the worst that people who are afraid of the unknown, of the alien are willing to say, and do to protect themselves and those they love from threat.
And so, even as I am aware that "home" is a very subjective concept nowadays for a significant portion of the human race....we also need to embrace a hope for deliverance now more than ever.
Baruch's words strike my heart and I am laid open by their impact. The people who have been in exile are coming home. The homeland that was broken and torn by war and destruction when they were removed from it is being healed. It's a beautiful sight to imagine, and one that goes deeper into my soul in this season of Advent as I pray for the displaced, the refugee who is so far from home today....and who sees little to no prospect of return in the future, if at all.
Baruch's vision is an idyll of hope, and one that I pray will be a reality one day for our refugee brothers and sisters. Why? Because in this Advent they do not have a "place" to prepare for God's arrival except in the makeshift shelters they inhabit along the way as they flee from violence toward an uncertain future. I want them to have a home, soon, which they can prepare for the coming of the heralded Guest. I pray they will feel the restoration and reconciliation promised by Baruch to Jerusalem and her people. I want with my whole being to see an end to the ugliness of conflict that deprives people of hearth, home and hope.
Advent is a season of waiting and preparation. This year, it is also a season of reorienting our welcome of the Guest to come toward those whom the Guest adores: the poor, the displaced, the orphan and widow, those exiles who need welcome, shelter, and a second chance to begin again.