Waiting is hard, especially in the western culture of want and gratification. In this sermon, Greg tells us about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings on advent, and how getting in touch with our emptiness through silence and solitude can lead to peace.
As Kingdom people, we wait. The word Advent comes from Latin adventus which means “coming”. We wait for the coming of second coming of Jesus. During the season of advent, we prepare ourselves for the birth day of Jesus, emphasizing the spiritual virtue of waiting and yearning.
For hundreds of years, the Jewish people waited for their messiah. They had prophecies of a coming savior who would restore the Kingdom, even while they were captives to other nations. This feeling of yearning for the messiah to come again was especially important to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer was a brilliant theologian in the early 20th century. He was a professor in Germany at the time of Hitler’s rise to power. While he could have easily lived a life of relative comfort, he chose to speak out against the idea that Hitler was the work of God and a Christ-like figure. Because he chose to speak out, he was fired from his position as a professor. After a few years, he started a little seminary in Germany, but in 1943, he was arrested by the Nazis because he spoke out against them. The last two years of his life he spent in prison, eventually being killed at the age of 39.
The heartbeat of the New Testament beats the message of waiting. It frequently says that we are the first fruits of the harvest. In ancient times, the first fruits were picked before the harvest was ready. They represented the coming harvest, and they were often committed to the Lord. Instead of eating these first fruits, people would offer them to the Lord through sacrifices. This continued the farmer’s yearning for the harvest to come.
Greg has had many rough nights these past few weeks. He has often woken up in the middle of the night with a painful void in his soul. He felt like being silent and sitting in solitude, simply feeling this void, has helped him understand what yearning has meant. Instead of getting up and filling that void with something in this world, whether a late-night snack or some other distraction, it is important to sit and experience that void.
It’s only when we get in touch with our emptiness that we can see the emptiness of this world. If we fill the void with things of this world, in an attempt to stop the pain of this void, we lose the yearning that this void creates.
But, who goes out of their way to feel pain? In our society, we are taught to keep pain and suffering at bay and to never want for anything. We are to satiate our desires whenever they arise. If you’re hungry, go to the local fast food place and get something to eat. If your car doesn’t work, buy a new one. If your marriage isn’t working out, get a new one. Our society wants us to fill any void of yearning that we might have.
But Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood that our hope is proportional to our yearning. The more we yearn for Jesus to come back, the larger and more profound our hope in Christ is. If we lack nothing and can fill our void with the things of this world, we will never yearn for something better. This society trains us to chase marshmallows and run from pain and silence, and we need to resist this urge because Jesus has something greater than the marshmallows of this world.
When we stop trying to feel full, we begin to find a peace in the hope in Jesus. We pray, like Paul, for Jesus to come quickly. The key to maturity is to create this space. If you want to grow as a follower of Christ, we need to understand our yearnings and how to deal with them. This week, try to sit in silence and solitude for 15 minutes a day. Spend this time simply experiencing this yearning for something else. In this way, you will begin to experience the advent season of yearning.
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