Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation; it’s a waiting game. But it is the kind of waiting that is designed to make us check our hearts rather than our watches. This is the kind of waiting that is meant be insulated by the patience of hope and covered over with several thick coats of faith. We are waiting on our redemption, the end of our salvation, the fullness of the promise. Soon it will come. But for now we must wait.
But this waiting is not like sitting on a curb and waiting for a ride. We are not to be idle. We occupy till it comes. This waiting is a bit more like waiting on tables until the big promotion comes. Faith trims the lamps and keeps them burning. Faith checks the window often to see if the Bridegroom is headed towards the door. Faith busily awaits the promise.
Faith, however timid and tremulous, reaches out to lay hold upon that which is just beyond human comprehension. Though it cannot yet grasp it, it is able to brush across it with its finger tips. Faith knows it’s there. Faith is the evidence of that which lies just beyond the horizons of present perception. And so we we crane our necks, crack our knuckles, and reach toward the heavens.
Something extraordinary happens when our faith reaches out to touch the promises of God–we are embraced by them. They lay hold upon us and refuse to let us go. They bind us with covenantal cords and draw us on until we are close enough to hear them whisper to us, “yes and amen.” Advent calls us to wait, with arms outstretched, until we are finally seized by the faithful God of promises.
That is what I think about whenever I see this particular portrait. Eve, the Mother of All the Living, becomes the instrument of death for all those who issue from her. Then God, in grace, makes a promise. The Dragon would lick the dust at the feet of her seed and would eventually be trodden underfoot. But the presence of a promise necessarily means that she would have to wait in faith; this was Advent east of Eden. Even though her faith was frail, it was firmly fixed. This picture portrays Promise rushing back to embrace her and assure her that the words of God are indeed faithful and true.
Here are a few lines I jotted down as something of a redemptive-historical commentary on the portrait:
Ashen cheeks blistered red,
In shame, she clutches bitter fruit.
Her womb a tomb for future dead,
In hope, she clings to Blessed Fruit.
Serpentine tooth and tail,
Enslaves all future steps and sons.
But Mary’s Seed shall last prevail,
Releasing captive chosen ones.
A naked soul adorned,
With new robes of ancient promise,
Soon Eden’s gates will be restored,
Greatly widened in the process.