... embracing all things far and nigh:
in strength and beauty come and stay;
teach us your will and guide our way.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
Advent, which begins for us on November 8, is a season of many moods and emotions. It is quiet waiting, somber reflection, hopeful longing, and joyful expectation. Advent, in fact, is a kind of gestation period in which we watch and wait for the birth of Christ.
This birth occurs not only at the Nativity when God entered human history as a vulnerable baby; but it also happens in the present as the Spirit of Christ springs up in our hearts and matures into acts of justice and compassion; we also look forward to the birth of a new creation in Christ at the end of time when all things will finally be renewed and set right.
Of all the years, 2020 feels like the time to practice an extended season of Advent. There is so much in the world that feels unsettled, not-right, and topsy-turvy. We long for the resolution of renewal as an expectant mother, late in her term, longs for the birth to happen. Come, Lord Jesus! we pray – more fervently this year than most.
Our worship and our prayers in this season will be shaped by the titles of Christ whose birth we anticipate, titles that are given to us in the seven verses of the famous hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. On each of the seven Sundays we will ponder how these aspects of Christ are being born into our lives and in our world this season.
On November 8 we remember that the One for whom we wait is Wisdom who “comes forth from the mouth of the Most High,” and who “reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, ordering all things well.” (Ecclesiasticus 24:3; Wisdom of Solomon 8:1) Today we ask how wisdom is being born into our lives.
It’s hard for me to talk about because I can’t make any pretension to have wisdom that I could pass on to anyone else. It’s the nature of wisdom that it is experiential, having to do with living rightly in this world. It’s also difficult to name exactly what it is to be wise, much less offer guidance about it. We can probably all point to people in our lives whom we feel are wise, or have offered us wise advice on occasion. Yet how can that elusive quality be distilled and universally defined?
This week our Text Study group came up with a cluster of words that describe wisdom. See how they fit for you. Wisdom, we said, has to do with:
You could probably add many more words of your own to this list, words that feel like they describe what wisdom is for you.
To live wisely is to live rightly and well with others, and with creation itself. It seems like we can pursue wisdom in our lives by being dedicated to self-awareness and self-improvement. We can learn to speak more sensitively and act more kindly. We can cultivate practices that lead to better understanding and humility. We can dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of wisdom, and I hope in this season of Advent we each will. But it also feels like wisdom is a gift, something that comes to us unbidden, sometimes through the difficult experiences of life.
The ancient sage who gave us the book the Wisdom of Solomon wrote that wisdom “is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. She graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.” (Wisdom 6:12, 16) This is an encouraging word! To seek wisdom is to find it. Perhaps you are also reminded of Jesus words: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7)
What we remember above all as we begin our Advent journey is that Christ Jesus himself IS wisdom itself. He is the incarnate Word of God, the word of wisdom. To seek wisdom, and how to live rightly in this world, is to seek Christ. And to live that wise life is to embody Christ’s own presence in the world.
May we ask, seek, and knock at the door of wisdom in this season, that Christ’s word of life may be born into our lives, bearing the fruits of wisdom.
Photo by Paolo Bendandi on Unsplash