As families gather around meal tables, I’ve often heard a common meal prayer recited from memory: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed.” But when was the last time that we actually stopped to think about just what we are asking God in this little prayer before our meal? “Come, Lord Jesus”? Are we really asking, really ready, and really open to Jesus sitting down at our tables with us? Are we really asking, really ready, and really open to Jesus coming into the messiness of the world? “Come, Lord Jesus”? Here? Now? Really?
Looking around the world it isn’t hard to spot instances of injustice, suffering, corruption, pain and fear. Indeed some days, we – along with all those who suffer – can only manage to cry out to God, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1) And yet it is in the midst of this reality that we continue to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus”? Do we really believe that God has anything to do with this world anymore? Based on what hope or promise do we have to boldly ask God to come to us?
As December begins, the church shifts in its liturgical cycle to the season of Advent: a season of waiting, of watching, of longing. Last year, while serving an internship at both St. Luke’s Hospital and St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, IA, I found myself in this season of Advent throughout the year. I found myself sitting, waiting and longing with…
a teenager admitted for the fourth time to an inpatient behavioral health unit after attempting suicide with no outside help or support,
a husband of a patient in the Critical Care Unit who held his now deceased wife
with all that he had left in him,
and parents as they held their stillborn twins in their arms.
As a committed theologian of the cross, I wanted so desperately to proclaim the good news that God was present with them even in the midst of their pain. And to some extent I believe that I did. And yet at the same time, I could not help but wait, watch, and long with each of these groups of people for the hope of new life…a hope of a reality free from pain, suffering and injustice. As people of the cross and resurrection, we boldly confess that God is present with us in every moment of our lives. And yet we can’t help but wait, watch and long for the presence of hope of God that has yet to be fully revealed to us.
Looking at the brokenness of our world, we cannot boldly proclaim that God’s kingdom is fully among us; it just can’t be. Justice has not come to all people. Peace has not been obtained. The kingdom has not dawned. Christ has not returned. And in the season of Advent, this little Lord Jesus has not yet come.
So daring to believe that God still cares for all that God has created and that God desires to give life to all people, we boldly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Come, Lord Jesus, into a world that desperately needs your life, your love…your hope. We need your peace, Lord Jesus. We can’t do it on our own. Come, Lord Jesus, into our hearts, into our lives, into our communities…into this broken world.
As we pray this Advent season, we all come from our own journeys, marked with our joys, sorrows, successes and challenges. But from wherever we come, we join with all the saints, waiting with eager longing while we watch for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom in our midst. But just maybe…maybe the waiting, watching and longing for Christ to come has just as much hope, promise and good news as the knowledge that God is present with us now. Maybe…just maybe, in the waiting, we have hope that one day, the world will no longer experience pain, injustice, violence and suffering. In the waiting, we hold onto the Gospel promise that something better is really yet to come.
And that…that sounds like a promise worth holding onto. A promise that is worth our continued prayers of “Come, Lord Jesus…”