Sunday saw us celebrate Advent Sunday with an Advent Carol Service of readings and music. Certainly part of our Anglican Patrimony!

Into that service, I carried all I had gained, from our Advent groups: An awareness of God’s expansive, welcoming love and an awareness of my inability to let go in order to let God bring something to birth, in me, this Advent.

As I listened to the readings and music I found myself taken into the story of Israel and Judah as they find themselves heading into exile. They were a people who had lost their way and their faith. The chaos and anarchy, which went hand in hand with them turning their backs on God, had made it easy for enemies to capture their kingdoms. Far away from home, in a strange land the Messianic promise must have mixed with their desire for home.

As I listened I was aware of an almost physical sense of this longing for God to send his Messiah, to reclaim his people and bring them home.

At the end of the liturgical year, only a week ago we had Christ with us, whether in the glory of the Second Coming or in the moment of proclaiming a kingdom in front of Pilate. We could see his humility and his majesty. Now however, we are waiting. He is not yet here.

There is something in Advent that is about absence.It is not an absence like Holy Saturday, where we are rung out after sitting by the Cross and seeing our God die. It is not hollow like the absence of the stone rolled over the entrance to the tomb with its seeming finality. It is an absence that is full of longing, desire and anticipation. It is an absence of being far from home, of feeling the distance between us and the place where God’s presence is. It contains elements of loss and hope in equal measure. It brings about the plea and the excitement that the Messiah will come and rescue us, contained in so many of the hymns we sung on Sunday.

There is a tension in Advent where our waiting and longing meet with hope and the hints of joy. Now we are right at the beginning and the arrival of our King is a long way off. As we live with these tensions and sense of absence, space is made, a road is prepared and soon we will get a glimpse of our King coming towards us, coming to be with us once again. As we sang on Sunday “though absent long, your Lord is nigh.”