Stop. Look. Listen. — Week 1

Welcome to week one of Stop.Look.Listen. I’m so glad you’re joining me for this Advent series! Are you ready to press pause together for a few moments? This week’s post is also available as a YouTube video! Just press play below. Or scroll down for the transcript if you’d prefer to read as usual.

Have you stopped today? Or has one task followed on the heels of another since your feet hit the floor this morning? Let’s stop doing, stop running, stop standing. Let’s sit down and breathe deeply (once, twice, maybe even three times) and turn our full attention to these verses from God’s word:

For the past decade or so, poetry has been a delightful part of our family’s rhythm. We spend a few months at a time getting to know a certain poet, enjoying a poem a day over breakfast. One of the poets we’ve lingered with over the years is William Blake (or as my kids refer to him “the guy obsessed with lambs”). Blake always seems to wriggle the figure of a lamb into his poetry, to the point where my children laugh out loud and roll their eyes, thinking here we go again!

I was surprised recently to learn that Blake was also a painter and a sort of self-proclaimed prophet. When I saw this painting of his, I thought, “The lamb guy painted this?!” Yup. And contrary to its title “Ancient of Days” (from Daniel’s prophecy), this guy was probably the furthest thing from God in Blake’s mind. He called him Urizen, a character representing the restrictions of reason and materialism in a mythology of Blake’s own making.

The Ancient of Days by William Blake (1794)

I look at this painting though, and I do see the biblical Ancient of Days, despite Blake’s intention. I see an eternal God, somehow looking old and young all at the same time. I see the Word that was with God and is God stooping and speaking everything into existence, without whom nothing would have been made that has been made. I see the Alpha and Omega of John’s vision in Revelation with flaming eyes and wool white hair. And I hear the song we just read from Revelation 15:3-4. 

Interestingly, those verses are described as “the song of the Lamb.” Yes! This is the Lamb I need right now in Advent 2023! This is the Lamb my heart longs for! The Lamb who has overcome, the One who still has a plan for this upside down world, the One who will right every wrong, reverse every injustice, and wipe away every tear in this weary world. 

Did you know that Advent, for much of the Church’s history, was rather apocalyptic in nature? I think we’ve lost sight of that somewhat. The visions of Daniel and John don’t really jive with most manger scenes I’ve seen. It’s easier to go back in time and identify with the Old Testament longing for the birth of the Messiah than it is to acknowledge the depths of our own longing. It’s easier to find comfort in the words of prophets like Isaiah than in the words of Revelation. But this year, instead of putting all our attention on the story we know so well, what if we bravely looked toward the horizon of what is still to come? What if we embraced our own A.D. longing and remembered these words:

Advent is like a coin with two sides, a sword with a double edge. Jesus came. Check! And Jesus is coming. Again! Sure, on Christmas Eve, let’s return to the manger. Let’s journey once again with the shepherds and the wise men. Let’s remember that the Word was made flesh. And let’s remember that His flesh was torn and His blood was spilled for us. But let’s also remember, as we look around at all that rages and plots against His kingdom of love and light and life, that this newborn, unblemished, and then slaughtered Lamb is also living and reigning in victory. A victory that was and is and is to come.

This Advent I am cherishing the story I know so well, but I’m also looking forward to the rest of the story. Even though the mystery of it can feel downright terrifying at times, and I don’t know exactly how it will go, I wholeheartedly trust the One who does. Ultimately, it’s got to be good, because He is! I echo John’s words at the close of Revelation:

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! And may His grace be with us all in this season and always.

Today’s listen is ancient. It’s based on a Latin poem by the Roman Christian poet Aurelius Prudentius who was born in what is now northern Spain in the year 348. It’s one of my favourites, and this husband and wife duo do a beautiful job of it. As you listen, let the cosmic reality of Christmas sink in, and remember that Jesus is Alpha and Omega, the source, the ending, our everything forever and for evermore!

I’ll be back next week, same time, same place, for week two of Stop.Look.Listen. In the meantime, may we grow in our longing for the Lamb of God as we seek His kingdom above all else and wait for it to come on earth as it is in Heaven!

Waiting with you,

Other posts in this series:


WEEK 2 — Stop.Look.Listen…for the Love that Restores

WEEK 3 — Stop.Look.Listen…for the Light of the World

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