Sometimes the Christmas season is my least favorite time of the year. It’s busy. It’s chaotic. It’s an all out fight to slow down enough to even consider Jesus.
And then before you know it, it’s the middle of December and you’re behind on all four advent plans you started at the beginning of the month with good intentions to make this season different, you have absolutely no gifts for anyone on your list, and the days seem to get longer and harder.
No matter how many years pass, there’s still a sense of grief and loss and something missing.
And then as you honestly lament – with a rawness that surprises you – the grief and suffering that tends to fill-up and take over this season that should be characterized by pure joy, one of your dear friends says it so well … this season is hard for many.
You’re not alone in this.
It’s the first Christmas after a tragedy or a loss. Or it’s the tenth Christmas after those same events. It’s when family trauma and fighting becomes unbearable. It’s when brokenness becomes most evident. It’s when struggles and doubts about faith rise to the surface. It’s when the core of one’s faith is most deeply questioned.
Yes, Christmas by our standards is hard.
But advent? This same season that is characterized by expectation, waiting, anticipation, longing, and hope?
I’ve always been fascinated with and deeply moved by the incarnate Christ. By this Emmanuel who literally made himself one of us, to walk and dwell among us. To save us, yes. But also … just to be with us.
And I am blown away by this reality over and over again. And blown away further still by the promise of his presence with us always.
But advent is new this year. Because in this particular season of advent, I see beyond the coming of a newborn King to the small town of Bethlehem.
Advent doesn’t end at Christmas. Advent is my life.
And just as I’m learning to recognize and be grateful for the small and simple moments of wonder and hope that characterize this Christmas season, I’m also recognizing that the waiting, the longing, the expectation, the anticipation and the hope make up every other day of the year.
These things that we call advent are the things I understand. These things that we call advent deeply move me. These things that we call advent are the things with which I most identify.
Because it is in this season of advent, perhaps more than any other, that we remember all is fulfilled and satisfied in Christ. This Emmanuel who became one of us.
And as I continue to read the advent plans this year, likely well into January, I can’t help but be left deeply humbled, amazed, and awed. I’m beginning to fall in love with the wonder and the mystery in the tension between the grief and the joy, the sorrow and the triumph, the suffering and the victory in the everyday of this life.
Because it is this very tension, this very intermingling of seemingly opposite emotions that run deeper than I know how to fully grasp, that leads me to the absolute edge of myself and straight into the presence of my Savior.
And this Savior is with me now. But the full reality of his presence has yet to be realized. Because a tangible eternity with him is still coming.
And there’s hope in the waiting, the longing, the expectation for that day. The day I’ll be with him forever. The day I’ll be home and all longings will cease. The day when advent ends and all will be realized in the coming of our king.
But for now, I embrace this extended season of advent, the one that doesn’t end at Christmas, the one that makes up the everyday of this life, and I continue to find the rest that my whole being so desperately craves in the One who dwelt among us then, lives with us still, and is coming again.