Christmas hasn’t felt cheery for me since I was a child. All of my adulthood, the season has felt like a letdown. But I love Advent. Advent reminds us that so much of life doesn’t feel cheery and happy. Instead, we’re waiting in the midst of brokenness for light to shine through. We wait with hope, but the waiting itself is painful.
In my experience, church has been a hard place to acknowledge difficult things. People want to get to the “fix” so quickly. They want the neatly wrapped up story of redemption and restoration. But the story of our lives don’t often go that way. We want Christmas morning with it’s perfectly wrapped packages and bows, but we’re living with the mess inside.
During Advent, we get an opportunity as the Church to collectively acknowledge the pain of waiting for all things to be made right. While we are hopeful, we are also acquainted with grief, pain, suffering, and loss. In fact these are the reasons we need the hope so much. We wait with hope for restoration and redemption within each our stories. But we also wait with hope for when Christ will return — not as a crying baby — but as a returning king who speaks and ends the darkness. Christ came into a world of darkness. He came to a world that needed light. His coming — his glorious, angel proclaimed, shepherd guarded coming — is good news because the brokenness was so bad. In order for the joy of his coming to break upon our hearts as it should, we must see our need, our brokenness as it is.
So often the holidays are a painful time. Grief and loneliness get heavier. Pain feels sharper. As the world seems to get taken over with cheeriness and jingle bells, our lives don’t look like a Christmas card. There’s sin, addiction, and broken relationships. There’s the empty chair and the shorter gift list reminding you of the buried loved one. Or like last year, the person I put on my Christmas list who died before December waned. As the year ends, we feel the sting of the still unfulfilled hopes, the losses and the consequences of our own sin.
Advent is the season for people who are hurting during the holidays. It’s the season that calls us away from the lights and trees and Holiday Cheer to remind us that the Lord sees our suffering. He sees all the reasons we need hope. He sees us and has sent a Savior.
We have so much to celebrate because our Savior has come, but we live in the “not yet” of a world waiting for his return. As the Lord remembered the cries of His people waiting for the Messiah, he hears our cry, sees our tears and brokenness and will send his Messiah. This time as a King coming to claim his throne. All will be made right. Tears will turn to joy. Brokenness will be healed. Darkness will turn to light.