Confidence & Longing

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya

Confidence & Longing

Beloved in Christ, 

One of my favorite pieces of Christian music is the hymn, “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending” (number 57 in The Hymnal, 1982). The text was written by Charles Wesley, and is a riff on the magnificent vision set forth in Revelation 1:7. It’s an Advent hymn, so even though I only get to sing it with a congregation about once a year, I listen to it frequently on my own. Please don’t tell the Advent police.  

Its theme is the second coming of Jesus and the day of judgment. These are not concepts that we as Episcopalians love. We tend to see the idea of God’s judgement as somehow opposed to the idea of a God who is perfect love. And yet, God’s judgment is an unmistakable feature of scripture, and an unmistakable emphasis of Advent. 

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible was written by, and from the perspective of, those who were the pushed aside, the forgotten, the politically and economically powerless. From that perspective, God’s judgement was good news. It was a full reckoning with injustice, cruelty, and suffering, and the vision described in the hymn was of a time when God would finally set a broken world to rights. 

The descant on the final verse—“Yea, Amen, let all adore thee/high on thine eternal throne/savior take the power and glory/claim the kingdom for thine own/alleluia, alleluia, alleluia/thou shalt reign and thou alone”—gives me chills every time I hear it. The cascading alleluias sound both confidence in the triumph of love, and a desperate longing for God to make it so. 

Holding both a bold confidence in the triumph of love and justice, while lifting our voices of longing and lament for God to make it so, is the spiritual posture of Advent. This is not just a season when we prepare for Christmas, it’s a season where our prayers, our music, and our scriptures draw our gaze forward, to the horizon of God’s perfect reign of peace, joy, justice, and love. In these weeks of increasing darkness, may you gaze be drawn to God’s light, and may you lift your voice, with the world’s suffering and poor, to the God who alone shall reign, world without end.

Grace and peace,

The Right Reverend Craig Loya
X Bishop