Advent Reflection 9: Absence

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry” (Ps. 146:5-6).

The troubling thing about God in a nation that is so overstuffed with stuff is that God seems to prefer to come when and where nothing else is coming. Advent is the season that the Church points to the One who came out to the open air. There was no room in the inn when he arrived (Lk. 2:7), so Life was born out of doors, in a manger. There was already a king in Israel (Lk. 1:5), so Christ was enthroned outside of Jerusalem, on a cross. He was born and he died in no man’s land, because the God who comes cannot be contained in one one man’s land, or one nation’s land. He came to every man, to every mother, to every child, but first to a Virgin.

So there must be vacancy for God to come, not like an empty room in an otherwise room-filled inn, but a place where the living God cannot be confused with any of the ordinary gods. Ordinary gods aren’t laid in mangers and in tombs. Only the living God can come where there is no life. God acts where there is no other activity, lives where there is no life. God’s presence is learned by way of God’s absence, but it’s hard to know God’s absence when everything else is stuffing the presence of the present.

I’m learning to be thankful for seasons of absence. I’m learning that absence is the place where God’s hand can be most clearly seen. I’m also learning that God’s absence is evidence itself of the reality of God (see excerpt below).

Convict me, Lord. I want my absence to remain empty until you fill it, rather than keeping a steady an influx of alternatives to get me by. Lord, help me into–into–the desert, even if help only feels like heartache, even if your presence feels only like a vacuum filled with infinite longing, even if seeking you leads to an endless search, let me search for you forever rather than find all the treasures of Egypt. I know full well the cost of returning to Egypt.

Only keep me from settling for anything less than all of you.

Today’s reflection concludes in deference to a man who speaks on absence with authority–from the other end of life:

From Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray

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