I loved going to the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk as a kid. The stores and amusement rides, the pizza places and popcorn shops, the balloons and cotton candy were all wonderful. Sundays on the boardwalk, however, were something less than wonderful. When I was growing up there were the Blue laws in Ocean City. These New Jersey laws restricted a number of economic activities from taking place on Sundays. These laws meant one thing to me—all the shops on the boardwalk were closed every Sunday. And because of it, going to the boardwalk on Sundays was not so enchanting to me. It meant walking by one closed shop or ride after another.
I can recall on a number of occasions taking long walks with my family on ‘the boards’, exercising off the flounder and shrimp and crab and fries we had for Sunday dinner. (Sunday on the boards was actually my dad’s favorite day to ‘go shopping’ since one began and ended the excursion with the same amount of money in one’s pocket. On more than one occasion he stood up from Sunday dinner and teased with a smile, “Anyone want to go shopping on the boards?” The older I got the funnier this little scene became. But as a young kid I did not find it so funny.)
So our family headed up to the boards. We would walk and talk together and I would stare into one shop after another, window after window of chocolate fudge and old-school yellow boogie boards and saltwater taffy and red kites and merry-go-rounds. What a torturing walk for a five-year-old! My face pressed against the windows straining to see further in. I longed to have what was in the stores, but I knew I would walk home empty-handed.
These Sunday journeys to the boardwalk were deeply unsatisfying experiences – always on the outside looking in. I am mindful of this “on outside looking in” boardwalk memory every Advent. In my own faith journey, it is a season full of longing. Well-acquainted with the story of baby Jesus born, aware of the tremendous impact of the Incarnation (God becoming Man in and as Jesus), yet my heart often remains distant from all the significance. The meaning of God’s rescue story fails to register as deeply and personally as I want it to. “Behold–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10) My heart presses against this new sort of window, longing for good news of great joy for all people. I yearn and pray and wait and hope yet again.
May we find ourselves over these next few weeks of December pressing our faces and hearts into the Christmas story. And may we immerse ourselves in Paul’s prayerful articulation of this deep longing…
“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-18)
Grace & Peace be yours in Christ Jesus.