An Advent Invitation: Come, Desire of Nations, Come

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Editor’s Note: This year, members of the Missio Alliance team are offering weekly Advent devotionals on the themes of Promise, Prophecy, Peace, and Praise and contemplating how we are to live missionally in accordance with each theme. This week’s reflection comes from Lisa Rodriguez Watson, our national director. In previous weeks, we shared reflections by Krystal Speed (Promise) and Helen Lee (Prophecy). We hope these devotionals will encourage and serve you as we share in the celebration of the Christ child’s arrival.

It was Christmas Day 59 years ago that my dad, his younger brothers, and his parents landed on US soil. He was just a 10-year-old boy, whose short years had already taught him long, traumatic lessons about conflict, war, and fleeing. Leaving Cuba was not a choice he made, but one that was made for him by his parents. A recent conversation with my Papi (our name for our grandfather) recounted the trauma of the days leading up to their necessary abandoning of the country they loved.

“What was happening was terrible. I was meeting for prayer in the early mornings with men in Havana. We would hear the firing squads down the road, and we knew that it meant more innocent lives lost. Out in the countryside when I went to visit once, the jeep of soldiers was there to pick up a friend of mine. They were waiting to load him up into the jeep to take him to be executed but had given him a minute with me to share some final words. As they prodded him to hurry, his desperation kept him saying, ‘But I have one more thing I want to tell him to tell my family.’ Eventually, against his will, he was loaded up into the jeep and was executed on a firing wall.”

My Papi continued, “Out in the province of Pinar Del Rio, a friend was telling me the night before the soldiers came to pick him up, ‘I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of leaving my wife and young daughter. Who will care for my wife? Who will raise my daughter when I’m gone?’”

I could feel his brokenheartedness and grief as he went on, “What was I going to say to those men? What words was I supposed to share in light of their reality? My nerves were shot. I couldn’t bear it anymore. Our family could have ended up like those families. We had to get out.”

As I ponder the theme of peace during this Advent season, I do so against the backdrop of our world today, my family’s world 59 years ago, and the world as it was 2,000 years ago. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is no stranger to chaos, strife, and conflict. Serene nativities and well-meaning Christmas carol lyrics such as “all is calm, all is bright” give a misleading depiction of that holy night when peace entered the turmoil of the world in tiny human form.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is no stranger to chaos, strife, and conflict. Serene nativities...give a misleading depiction of that holy night when peace entered the turmoil of the world in tiny human form. Click To Tweet

How could it have been calm and bright with the Jews living under Roman occupation and all the homes in Bethlehem full due to the census at that time? A frenzied Mary and Joseph must have wondered how these overcrowded, over-occupied conditions were the “right” ones for ushering in the earthly life of the Savior of the world.

Dark, difficult, and tumultuous might be better descriptors of that time. They are certainly as adequate for today as they were in 1961 when the young Rodriguez family of five left Havana and landed in Miami, suitcases in hand, with hearts full of sorrow and hope.

Even as I think about what it would have been like for them so long ago, I’m aware of my own deep longing for peace this Advent. It has come fresh this year through the words of the prophet Haggai who foretold of the time when God would shake all the nations, and the Desire of Nations would come. A beautiful promise follows the foretelling: “In this place I will grant my peace, declares the Lord Almighty.” The Desire of Nations is God’s granting of peace to humanity. A brown baby boy born into chaos and disorder would come to save the world and usher in the renewal of all things. How fitting of the relentless, reconciling love of God!

A brown baby boy born into chaos and disorder would come to save the world and usher in the renewal of all things. How fitting of the relentless, reconciling love of God! Click To Tweet

In a year such as 2020, I feel like we’ve seen a new “shaking of the nations.” The pandemic has forced us to reckon with the realities of globalization and our shared humanity. As a church we’ve grappled with adapting our forms of mission, discipleship, and worship in light of social distance and isolation. In June, we witnessed protests around the world collectively rallying for justice because of the tragic truth that colonization and supremacy still renders the message from those on the margins, “I can’t breathe.” It’s been a year of “shaking the nations,” and I long for the Desire of Nations to bring peace and justice.

A song that depicts my heart’s cry this Advent is “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.” The second verse especially so:

Oh come Desire of Nations bind,
All people in one heart and mind
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel has come to thee, Oh Israel

May we hold on to the hope of this hymn, anticipate its meaning anew, and out of our love for Jesus practice peace in our corners of the world.

Practices for the Third Week of Advent

  1. Reflect/Journal: In what ways are you like my family 60 years ago, on the edge of a beginning, “holding your suitcase with a heart full of sorrow and hope?” What is in your suitcase? How does the Prince of Peace meet you in this place?  What would it look like for the Desire of Nations to come into your life and your community?
  2. Remember/Retell: Find a friend or relative and share a story of a time when God intervened in a powerful way to grant you peace, and invite them to share a similar story as well.
  3. Learn: Research Christian theologians and thought leaders from the Majority World. Consider their writings on peace and the role of the church in the world. Here’s a great place to begin.
  4. Give: Volunteer your time or financially contribute to a Christian peacemaking organization as an expression of your desire for the Desire of Nations to come.
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