Advent is a season that has grown on me over the years. Sure, I liked lighting the three purple candles and one pink candle in the weeks leading as a little girl. I have fond memories of our family traditions of reading the Advent Sunday passage around the dinner table and sometimes opening a small gift for my sisters and me to enjoy together.
But I mostly liked Advent because it was a sign of what was to come…the celebration of Christmas!
How many more days of school until Christmas break?
How many more sleeps until Christmas morning?
For me, Advent was about waiting for the main event – the day the changed everything, the day we celebrate.
And I still love Christmas! I love decorating, looking at the lights, exchanging gifts, sending cards, waiting by the mailbox for pictures of the familiar faces I love, and singing carols at church with my family friends. I’ve never been one to get stressed around the holiday season. I’m a Christmas person and always have been.
But a few years ago, something felt different. I entered into the holiday season a little wounded, a little bruised, and a little weary. Have you ever been there?
The day after Thanksgiving was the same as it had been every year. We cut down a tree, hauled the decorations out from the basement, bought a hot chocolate and scouted neighborhood lights…but my heart wasn’t connected to it.
I had so much to be grateful for and I was indeed grateful for those things. But I was also finishing a year that was largely characterized by longing and loss. The year had left me heartbroken and tired. The festive nature of Christmas felt foreign and I felt broken.
That particular year, a friend invited me to participate in an Advent study with her. Desperate to connect to the season that played loudly around me, I agreed.
As I read, I was reminded that Jesus was the fulfillment of what was promised and Advent is about celebrating what is and longing for what is yet to come. And I thought to myself, “Now, this is something I can connect to!”
Being honest about my pain in the “not yet” allowed me to take comfort in what I have now – the presence of Jesus Christ.
A phrase we commonly hear and recite in church during the Advent season is “Emmanuel. God is with us!” This is the gift of that first Christmas. Because while we wait, God is here now! He is with us in our blessing and in our brokenness.
No matter where we find ourselves this holiday season, we can celebrate the fact that God is here and He is near to our experience. He holds us in our worry, our celebration, our fear, our relief, our grief, and our hope.
While we wait in this imperfect world, let us not forget the gift that we have now. Because of that first Christmas, there is light that shines through the cracks of our brokenness – Christ with us and Christ in us!
He is the now in our not yet…