Today's reading: Isaiah 64:5-9
But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself, we transgressed. (v. 5)
When I read this passage, my first instinct was that the ancient editors had an "oops" here, and got the order of things mixed up... it's supposed to be "FIRST we sinned, THEN you hid yourself," right? But no, in this chicken-or-the-egg scenario it's the other way around: "because you hid yourself, we transgressed."
We believe that God is infinitely faithful--even when God seems hidden from us, even in divine anger, even when the holy Countenance doesn't seem to be shining on us at all. God's faithfulness is that of a potter, who returns again and again to shape unruly clay. God's faithfulness is that of a parent, who turns again and again to guide an unruly child.
But what is OUR faithfulness? When we've dissolved on the potter's wheel, a mess of mud and grit, do we stay waiting for the Artist to come back and begin us anew? When we feel ourselves left alone in a "time out," do we trust that our Parent will once again take us up in loving arms?
Or, when God seems hidden, do we pack a bag and run away from home?
In Advent, we yearn toward a God Who Comes, and in doing so we recognize that our world is painfully in need of that Presence. Personally I don't believe that God is ever truly absent from us, but I do believe there are (many) times and places where God's Presence must be fervently sought, faithfully awaited. Where children are summoned to war, where diseased inner voices lead good people into the dark, where poverty claims lives, where substances are a substitute for love... in all these places, where God may seem hidden, I believe God waits and Loves and stretches out Potter's hands, Parent's hands, to take hold once again.
In Advent, our waiting, our longing, is our faithfulness. Instead of turning to sin in a world where God may seem absent, in our Advent yearning we affirm over and over again that we are God's work and God's people, and that we know God With Us will return.