What do you anticipate the most about the Christmas season? What do you get the most excited for? What do you yearn for? What do you fear?
Will the decorations get put up? Will the dog eat the ornaments? Will my toddler eat the ornaments? Who should we spend time with? Will extended family time be fun or draining, or both? Will I get all my shopping done on time? Will we have snow for Christmas Day? Will my children understand the real meaning of Christmas? Will I be able to reflect and rest this season? Will my children be thankful for their gifts? Will I actually get to sleep in? How will I make it through this season without my loved ones?
Advent is one of my favorite times of the year. I love anticipating. I love planning. I love new things, new seasons, new faces, new experiences.
And ironically enough, I hate waiting. Ask my husband-I am the worst at waiting. And anticipation and waiting go hand in hand, don’t they? And while the build up to Christmas and the Advent season is full of waiting, I actually find the rhythm of Advent easy, and the anticipation exciting. Because Advent speaks to my heart.
The season of Advent was created by church fathers hundreds of years ago to help us reflect on the anticipation of Christ’s second coming….by celebrating and remembering his first coming. We remember and celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth, and see that God keeps His promises. We have visual reminders through recreating the manger scene, reminders that God came down to earth to dwell with us – Emmanuel. He loved us so much that He gave his only Son to us, to live with us and to die for us.
Yet, so many times we only focus on his first coming, remembering his birth. Or we tie Christmas in with Easter, and take the manger straight to the cross. Which is right and true. However, if we do not take this time of Advent to reflect on Jesus’ Second Coming, then we are selling ourselves short. It’s like going to a Southern wedding and taking a slice of the Bride’s cake, and forgetting to get a slice of the Groom’s cake too-which is usually much better than the Bride’s (think Steel Magnolias and the red velvet armadillo cake). Or watching the first half of the Nutcracker, and leaving at Intermission-which means you missed all the amazing Dances of Sweets in the Second Act, including the famous Sugar Plum Fairy.
How do we focus on the Second Coming of Christ during Advent? First, we have to see our need for it.
What do you long for this season? What do you fear or dread during the holiday season? What gives you the most joy? What can steal away that joy? Reflecting on our raw, honest emotions is often glossed over in the midst of lights, tinsel and cheery Christmas music. Our mix of feelings can be uncomfortable for us and so we push them away, or try to hide the tears so as not to kill the holly, jolly mood of others. From missing loved ones and grieving for those not with us any longer, to kids misbehaving for Christmas pictures and presents, to the let down after all the gifts are unwrapped. Fear of conflict, fear of unmet expectations. And all of that wrapped up in waiting and anticipation of the One who is to come.
Advent gives us the unique opportunity to acknowledge all our feelings. God actually wants us to feel all those feelings, to reflect upon them. The rhythm of Advent, with all our hopes, fears and desires, can show us that we too are threaded into God’s tapestry of redemption. Because Advent should bring out a feeling of MORE. A feeling of LONGING.
A feeling of why-can’t-these-happy-and-satisfied-feelings last all year long? Advent can bring an acute sense of longing for all things to be made right. Our bodies and souls long for MORE. We were made for MORE.
And the happy news of Advent is that God has more for us. This life is but a blink of an eye. We were made for complete union and perfect relationship with our Creator and Creation. And Jesus has secured MORE for us through his birth, death and resurrection.
So we anticipate. And we wait. For Jesus to come again. When He will wipe away every tear and he will make all the sad things untrue. Jesus will come and take those who trust in him as Savior back HOME. Home to live with him forever.
Isaiah 25: 6-9, speaking of Jesus’ Second Coming, says, “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. 9 In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
Similarly, Revelation 21: 1-5a says “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
So this Advent season, as you unwrap all the new presents, remember that one day ALL things will be made new. When you teach your children about Jesus’ birth, also tell them that Jesus is one day coming back! When you sing hymns in church like “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come”, think about the word IS. Jesus has come and IS coming back again! For those whose loved ones are in Jesus’ arms in heaven right now, look at the manger and be encouraged and ensured that Jesus came to earth to save us so that heaven one day. Forever.
This life is but a blink in his eye. This life is not all there is. We were made for MORE. We were made to live eternally with God. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us is coming! That is a hope and future I am anticipating, and one I will wait for.
And so we cry out with the Psalmist, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning!” (Psalm 130: 8)
One of my favorite hymns of Advent is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The music, along with the words, creates a picture of longing and anticipation.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Click on the link below to hear my performance of Mark Haye’s arrangement of this hymn.
Merry Christmas! ~Davina