As a four or five-year-old, I used to stand at the door and watch. Whenever our parents were gone in the evening, I would plant myself at a window by the front door and peer into the deep blue darkness, looking for signs of their returning headlights. We had a 1960 Chevrolet, with great big globes in the front and wide, thin lights in the back that curved like raised eyebrows, and I would scan the horizon of our front yard for a glimpse of its familiar and comforting silhouette. Waiting, watching, wondering when the “master of the house” would return, in the words of the Advent reading—a pint-sized sentinel looking out with his nose pressed against the window pane. I was an ambivalent lookout man, eager for the mischief that my brother and I got into, and also happy for the order that arrived as my dad steered back into the driveway. I wonder if Isaiah ever felt that way, or John the Baptist, or Mary?
I can conjure up the longing I’d feel as a boy on those December nights, a funny combination of excitement and worry, of vulnerability and promise. We liked being left to our own devices. But there was fear in it, too, of judgment or being caught unawares or a sense that my siblings and I had been offered a gift that we might squander or break. “Be good,” my mother would holler, as the screen door slammed behind her, knowing how much trouble we could stir up.
The kingdom of God is like that, both already present and not yet here, like the house your parents left you in while they were out for a party. The family is everywhere you look, if you have eyes to see it—in rules tacked up by the refrigerator,pictures on the bulletin board, brothers and sisters or neighbors across town,relationships built or broken and waiting for repair. I would stand at the window worried about my parents’ absence, and my brother Paul would draw me into a game, reminding me without saying anything in particular that the cadence of my father’s voice was in my brother’s stories and laughter, that my mother’s attentiveness was even sweeter in Paul, that our sister was watching with eyes she borrowed from them. The healing of the human family is in our hands.
What are you looking for this Advent? Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world. God is already here.
I hope you’ll be with us this season of Immanuel. I’ll be at the door looking for you.