All month, my heart has been crying out, “Give me back my Advent!” In all the holiday preparation from Thanksgiving to the New Year, Advent often gets lost in the shuffle. After all, we have enough work to do in redeeming Christmas from our culture, right? But, what if I told you Advent is the key to redeeming Christmas?
When I was growing up, Advent was always explained to me as a time of expectation, when we tell the story of what is to come. I was told that it was a time to prepare my heart for the coming of the King. All those things are true, but my heart wondered what if there is more? It felt like there was something I was missing.
What I was missing was the whole story of God and his people.
So often, we are drawn to the New Testament stories we can identify with—the people who lived in the time of Christ and the early Church. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand the perspectives of Old Testament Israelites in a culture that is so far removed from our own, trying to wrestle with passages we don’t comprehend. But, we need the Old Testament’s message. Our souls are never going to understand the depth of victory in Christ until we have understood the suffering and loss that is our spiritual heritage.
As an adult, I have found myself captivated by the story of God’s people as told in the Old Testament. I find my own heart identifying with the suffering and their crying out to God, “How long?” One of my favorite Advent songs, Advent Hope (click here to listen), captures this well. One of the most pivotal lessons a hard life will teach you is that suffering serves to magnify the joy of redemption and hope. For all the darkness, the light shines all the brighter. Our culture strongly seeks to avoid discomfort of any kind, but the truth is that embracing pain can be the key to our freedom.
In hearing the stories of bondage and oppression, our souls learn the aching longing for a Deliverer. In identifying with the patterns of apostasy and destruction, our souls learn our need for a Savior. We must not focus on the stories of what is to come to the exclusion of the stories that tell how it has always been. We cannot understand a Christ-child in a rough wooden manger without looking toward the Messiah on a rough wooden cross. And, we cannot look toward the Messiah on that rough wooden cross until we understand our need and our longing to be saved.
Until we get in touch with the pain of humanity and its desperate longing for Christ—until we understand our own deepest longing for a Savior—Jesus will always be a cute baby, lying in some hay in a pageant at church. Yes, it is almost Christmas. But, don’t forget that it is still Advent. It is the role of Advent to bring us into that tension between longing for hope and making room in our hearts for that hope to be born. It is in the depth of that tension that we can fall on our knees when we hear these words from Luke 2:10-11: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Patricia Taylor is the Editor for the Soul Care Collective and a member of the Seedbed Farm Team.
Image attribution: peerayot / Thinkstock