I love Advent. I love symbolism and beauty and Advent drips with them. I am enchanted by the Christmas lights and candles against the dark skies. I love reflecting on the wonder and reading poems and sitting quietly at our front window watching the snow fall. I love meditating on the ideas of hope, peace, love, and joy.
But this Advent I found myself uncomfortably close to the brokenness of the world. Our car was broken into twice, we were sick and then sick again, and I was laid up week after week with the effects of iron infusions. I spent most of Advent taking Advil, lying in bed, and trying to be gentle with myself. I had to depend on God, cling too often to Jesus, and relied too much on the Holy Spirit for daily strength. My broken and feeble flesh was all too palpable and I was disappointed.
I wanted these weeks before Christmas to be like a movie montage- snowflakes falling on Dickensian carollers, children laughing while baking, snowballs and skating, cozy sweaters and fireplaces. I did not want Christmas to be about the desperate need of humanity or my inability to solve my own brokenness. The first is easy to put on a postcard, the later is something I want to sweep under the carpet and avoid.
Historically, Advent was a fast like lent. It was a time to prepare our hearts and bodies for the coming of Jesus by foregoing food and drink, pleasures and excess. A season of hunger and thirst to remind us of our need for a Savior. It is a time where we feel the weakness of our flesh and our need for a Redeemer. 24 days where we see the fragmentation of our world and join the groaning of all creation for the great King. Weeks where we stare down the darkness and rather than eating and drinking away our despair, we declare that hope, peace, joy, and love have come in the person of Jesus.
Maybe, like me, you are coming to these last few days before Christmas and finding yourself wishing this month had looked differently. Perhaps this month was more like a fast than a feast. I have good news for you and for me. This is why Jesus came.
All that Christmas movie montage is for the birds. Advent is about facing the grim reality of our imperfection and awaiting the glorious arrival of he who was perfect and by whose wounds we were healed. Advent is the waiting and Christmas is the gift we receive on our knees with tears and with it the strength to rise joyfully and triumphantly in the brilliance of the light Jesus sheds on the world.
If Advent found you dealing with the realities of complicated family relationships - "Be not afraid."
If you are flat on your back with sickness- "I bring you good news..."
If you are visiting those grieving or sick in the hospital- "...and it will be the cause of great joy. "
If the headlines and news reel are overwhelming - "Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)
Advent is about our need. Christmas is about the joy that comes in the morning. Take heart and wait for the dawn.