Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!
Isaiah blurts out the frustration and longing that seem to be our inevitable portion as children of Adam and Eve. Frustration: in the midst of conflict and pain, we sense that something has gone terribly wrong, and we are powerless to fix it. Longing: we yearn for God to break into our stifling world and set things right.
William Butler Yeats gave words to our dilemma:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
(Yeats, “The Second Coming”)
In the rhythm of the church year, Advent reminds us that we live in a time of groaning along with a broken creation, a time of longing for what we do not yet see (Rom 8:22-25). We yearn for the long-delayed coming of God’s justice. But Advent also reminds us that our longing is not futile, for we await the consummation of a sure promise. In the coming of Jesus Christ, God has torn open the heavens and come down. For that reason, Advent recalls us to the discipline of hopeful waiting. Nothing now can separate us from the love of God, and so we wait with confidence for the healing of all creation.
Richard B. Hays, Dean and George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament
Duke Divinity School