In my last post, I discussed Advent as a time of waiting. An aspect of waiting that I would like to hit upon in this post deals with Advent as a time of expectant longing. In Advent, we recall the expectation and longing for the first coming of Christ into our humanity. We also anticipate the second coming of Christ in final victory.
Mentally, I understand this. I have prepared service orders, scripts, and songs for worship keeping these thoughts in mind. However, I have to question how deep is my sense of longing to be in the presence of Jesus Christ? How deeply from my gut do I cry out, ‘Come quickly, Lord Jesus!’? Is my heart so moved in worship that I cannot help but long for the day I will be in the full presence of God? (Not that worship should be equated with emotion, but I do not want to fall into the greater danger of eliminating emotion from worship.)
Yesterday I may have witnessed the greatest moment of worship in my life. Not only was it a glimpse of true worship, but it also helped me see a picture of what Advent truly means.
A young woman has been attending our service for the past few months. For the sake of anonymity we will call her Jane. When Jane first began attending our service, I recognized her from when I was a student at Asbury Seminary. Only recently have gotten to know her, and to my own guilt, still only a very little. I don’t know much about Jane’s history, but I do know for the rest of her life she will be in a wheelchair.
As the worship pastor and music leader for our service, I have a good view of the congregation during the service. (Go ahead and criticize me, but it’s difficult not to notice a big group of people sitting/standing right in front of you.) Jane always sits in the back of the room during our services, but she is always very engaged in every aspect of worship. It is a joy to see her worship.
One of the songs I chose for the service yesterday was the chorus, “There’s a Stirring.” It is a simple but beautiful song, and one I felt appropriate for the first Sunday in Advent. The words to the chorus of this song are as follows:
I will rise up, rise up
And bow down
And lay my crown
At His wounded feet
As we sang this chorus together, I could not help but notice Jane at the back of the room. Her arms were raised as high as she could lift them. Her face was lifted, with the one of the deepest reflections of longing I have ever seen. When she sang, “I will rise up!” she knew a day was coming when she would no longer be in the constraints of her wheelchair, but she would be able to stand face-to-face with her Savior and bow down before Him. Even as I type this now I cannot hold back the tears because in that moment of worship, Jane showed me the true beauty of Advent.
Longing. There’s a lot that I long for in life. I long to be with my wife when we’re apart. I long for rest when the week has been toilsome. I long for peace when I feel troubled. But in this season, I want to long for Christ like Jane. In many ways, the blessings in my life have crippled me. However, this Advent, the image of a wheelchair has taught me a deeper prayer of “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”