The water flows cleanly here, just a few miles from the source of the Hudson River, deep in the Adirondack Mountains. The big puffs of foam that form on the surface of the water aren't evidence of agricultural runoff, but rather the result of rainwater leeching through the forest floor.
Oh, the majesty and magnificence of God's presence! Oh, the power and splendor of his sanctuary! . . . Mary wrapped him in swaddling clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Ahaz, Paul and Joseph were three men up against the inscrutability of God. One was a king whose rebellion exhausted God and led him to the brink of disaster and whose heart shook like a tree in the wind. One was a zealous Jew whose fidelity to the God of his ancestors made him a murderer and blinded him to the possibility that God's coming might not be as he anticipated.
There's a phrase tucked away in Psalm 146 that provides the basis for our Advent hope: God "keeps his promise for ever." Without that assurance there is no hope and no sense in Advent. Our hope is in God.
Advent is a time to recall that it is not our own unpredictable desire for God that shapes our history, but God's faithfulness. Yes, Advent is a season to make our longing conscious. But primarily it is a season to become more aware of the God who creates that longing in us.