Written by Rev. Leigh Boelkins Van Kempen
“My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.” (Isaiah 26: 9a)
This past Sunday the Christian church began observing the season of Advent—a time of waiting and watching for the coming of Jesus. During a FaceTime call with my dad on Sunday, he told me about his church’s service, which he watched on-line. He said his congregation’s theme was of “hope and yearning.”
Yearning is an such an old-fashioned term. We don’t use it very often. It seems more like a word from an 18th century novel than a contemporary one. But I think it communicates the emotions that have been brewing in all of us, feelings that are appropriate for Advent—and appropriate for COVID.
When we yearn for something, we crave it. We long for it with a deep ache. Our desire may feel bottomless. It’s like a strong hunger. In this season of COVID we are all hungering, and craving, and aching, and desiring a return to normal: health, family time, mask-free visits, worship services. All the things that have been compromised by COVID are the things for which we yearn.
Our Advent-yearning is similar. We wait for the birth of our Savior—and for the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We hope for the light to shine in the darkness. We hunger for the justice and restoration that is foretold by the prophets. We long for all the blessings God promised, both through Jesus’ birth, and Christ’s return.
I’ve been listening to Christmas carols during this Advent season. The final line of O Little Town of Bethlehem resonated with me as I considered Advent-yearning: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” Christmas carols communicate the truth of Advent. All of our Hope and Yearning is fulfilled in a baby born in a manger. When we hope for salvation and release from COVID—it all comes through Jesus!