I love praying with the Psalms. There’s such a beautiful, poetic element to the language of this book of the Bible. There is authenticity—human doubt, suffering, or fear—as well as reminders of God’s faithfulness. One thing I’ve noticed, in particular, is the common thread in this Old Testament perspective: anticipation of the Messiah, the Chosen One.
We, of course, now know this Messiah to be Jesus Christ, but ancient Jews could only hope and eagerly wait for the Messiah to be revealed.
They had waited a while, too. If you look at ancient Israelites’ history with God, there were plenty of ups and downs, times of trust and times of wandering. At times, it seemed like God had forgotten His promises to His people altogether.
A verse in Psalm 77 says, “This is what causes my grief; that the way of the Most High has changed.” You can almost sense the Jews’ frustrations, fearing that God had abandoned them, that the promised Chosen One was never coming to save them.
But through that all…God was faithful. His ways had never changed; rather, it was their hearts that had changed in their reception of His love and trust in His Word.
So what does that mean for their understanding of the Messiah? Well, the Israelites were God’s chosen people. But despite this identity, they were oppressed, conquered, scattered. They were hoping eagerly for a restoration of their Kingdom, for the world to finally see that they were God’s holy nation.
But the Kingdom they anticipated was a worldly one, not a heavenly Kingdom. They understood God’s faithfulness to mean a restoration to earthly glory. They expected a might ruler, a powerful King who would seize back the authority owed to them. So when God finally did come knocking on their door as a tiny babe in a manger, they were more than a little surprised…
Away in a Manger
Jesus’ arrival was unexpected. The King of the Universe became a fragile, weak infant. He didn’t arrive in glory. He didn’t ascend to power, at least not in the way we might expect it. His merits and glory were hidden, invisible to one looking only with worldly eyes. His throne was a cross, and His crown was made of thorns. This was not a part of the plan, at least in the eyes of those who hoped for a worldly deliverer.
The Jews prayed for deliverance, but they expected more than Jesus, son of Joseph. They couldn’t believe God’s Messiah would be so…disappointing.
How often do we feel this way? We pray for God to intervene. But then we fail to recognize (or accept) what He sends our way. Perhaps we pray for a good grade, or a successful career, or for things to go our way. And when we are met by tribulation, we doubt, just as the Israelites did.
It’s human of us to expect God’s will to look pretty, to believe that doing well is equal to being loved by God. But when the test doesn’t go so well, or we don’t get the job, then what? Do we accept it as part of God’s plan? Or do we think He checked out, or that God failed to deliver?
Turning Christ Away
Lack of trust in His faithfulness is only one way we turn Christ away. However, there’s an elephant in the room… There’s a way in which we continually tell God there is no room for Him in the room of our hearts. It’s the Holy Eucharist.
Think about it. Just as Christ humbled Himself as a baby, so, too, does He humble Himself in the Eucharist, coming to us in the appearance of bread and wine. And just like the ancient Israelites who turned Him away, many times we accept His gift without reverence. We say “Amen,” and continue on our way. Maybe we expect more—maybe we expect the Eucharist to “taste like God,” or something. Maybe we’re disappointed. This is God? This is the King of the Universe? That’s…it?
The Holy Eucharist is unassuming. But that doesn’t make it any less glorious—it is God, the King of the Universe, that we receive. It is Christ, the Word Made Flesh, that we gaze upon. The Eucharist is unassuming, but so is our Lord.
Opening the Door
My chaplain often describes the soul as a home of sorts. In this Advent season, the metaphor is even more fitting.
When Jesus knocks—which He always does—do we close the door? Do we call out, “Sorry, I’m busy!” or, “There’s no room for you here.”? Is our floor cluttered and messy? Are we prepared to let Him in, or do we send Him away, onto the next home?
Alternatively, we could rush to the door. We could open it at once, excited that He has chosen to make our home—our soul—His dwelling. After all, we had been expecting a guest, hadn’t we? Is our home clean—at least clean enough for us to find Him a seat? Do we usher Him in, look Him in the eyes, and say, “I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been expecting you!”?
When we say “Amen,” do we actually mean it? Do we actually believe Christ is who He says He is? Do we actually believe the Messiah has come? Or do we secure Him to the Cross once again with our doubt and disbelief?
If we want to open the door of our hearts to the Lord, we should take note of how He was received in the Gospels. Do we want to chase Him out of the temple? Or do we want to run to Him, bearing gifts to honor His arrival?
Trust in God. Rain or shine, A+ or F, sickness or health. Know that He will never abandon you, even if your life doesn’t go exactly as you had planned.
God is faithful; He will not change. He will not disappoint. He has promised us a promise that will not be shaken, that will never be revoked. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” (John 3:16). For YOU.
Heaven is touching earth every day (like an unforeseen kiss, I might add)–in our daily circumstances, in our relationships, and in the very life of Jesus Christ upon the altar in the Eucharist.
The Messiah is here. Will you accept Him?