“O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace”
(O Come, O Come Emmanuel)
“Advent is all about desire”
The human heart was created by God to desire. This desire drive us, sometimes knowingly, but often unknowingly. In fact, it’s not too much to say that the world is driven by the forces of desire for recognition, sex, peace, fame, equality, superiority, love, acceptance, power, justice, health, and many other longings that compel individuals, local communities, and nations to action. Desire is the fuel of the human experience and the engine of human history.
But what will bring satisfaction to the human heart? How will our desires be realized? It is clear from human history that pursuing our desires can build up but also tear down. Among the items listed above, some could be described as “good” desires, and some as “bad” desires. But even “good” desires can tear down and leave us unsatisfied. So what will bring us the deep contentment we long for? In Haggai 2:7, the prophet uses a fascinating title to describe the Messiah to come, the one who would be YHWH’s instrument for shaking the nations and through whom peace will arrive: he calls him “the desire of the nations.” Though this is the only time this title is used in the Scriptures to describe the Messiah, it is filled with meaning and insight. It tells us that the human heart will only find true satisfaction in the “desire of the nations,” Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ child born in Bethlehem. It tells us that no “what” will satisfy the human heart, only a “Who.”
Therefore, it is right to say, in the words of an anonymous Jesuit priest, that “advent is all about desire.” Advent tells us that the God of the universe, the Creator of the heavens and earth, is a God who, in His life as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a God of desire. “God is love” (1 John 4:8) tells us that God’s very nature is a holy desire expressed in the love between the Persons of the Trinity. Advent goes on to tell us that the God who is love created humans in His image, and so we were created to desire Him and to love our neighbor. And Advent further tells us that God is the gracious one who pursues us when “we all, like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6), when our desires are aimed at objects that cannot ultimately satisfy us. He did this by sending His Son to save us from our misdirected desires and restore us to the proper object of our desire, the Godhead Three in One.
This Advent at Central, we will be exploring four fundamental desires of the human heart: our desire for peace (Haggai 2), for judgement (Isaiah 42:1-4), for liberty (Isaiah 42:5-9) and for a righteous ruler (Revelation 5:11-14). As we explore these core desires, we will reflect together on how these desires are satisfied only in Jesus Christ, seeing that Christ, the Desire of the Nations, is the one our hearts long for and who alone can bring us ultimate satisfaction.