This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. If we’re not careful, Advent is pretty easy to miss. Christmas lights go up mid-November, holiday music starts playing sometime shortly after Halloween, and everything feels festive and merry long before Christmas day. Advent, with its somberness and quiet, gets swept under the rug. We light a few candles, but our hearts barely register what it means.
The season of Advent is about yearning, waiting, and anticipating. It is about creating space in our chaotic lives and hearts for the coming of Jesus, for the Word made flesh. It acknowledges that the twinkling lights and Christmas trees and familiar carols don’t tell the whole story—that before rejoicing there was longing. And it was hard.
Longing is something we all understand. Maybe this year we understand it better than ever before. We understand the deep ache for something that is yet to be and the hunger for what is not yet ours. But Advent offers more than just waiting. It offers a promise. It offers a promise that God made a long time ago that no feeling of brokenness or loneliness or emptiness is too great for his power and love to heal. It was a promise that he would send a Savior to heal this pain-stricken world and remind us all that this is not the end.
Advent, at its very core, centers on the belief that everything is going to be okay. It is about expectation and anticipation and longing and waiting, but most importantly, it is about hope. Yes, there is darkness and pain, but wait—there is more! There is a light coming, and that light will shine in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. Yes, there is hurt and brokenness and despair, but there is also rejoicing for a weary world whose cries have been heard. Yes, sometimes it feels like life is not worth living, but a new way of living is on the horizon, and it is good and holy and so, so worth it. And we have the promise that everything is really and truly going to be okay.
One of my favorite authors sums it up kind of perfectly:
“I believe deeply that God does his best work during times of great heartbreak and loss, and I believe that much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over. There are years when the Christmas spirit is hard to come by, and it’s in those seasons when I’m so thankful for Advent. Consider it a less flashy but still very beautiful way of being present to this season. Give up for a while your false and failing attempts at merriment, and thank God for thin places, and for Advent, for a season that understands longing and loneliness and long nights. Let yourself fall open to Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it’s been lost.”
-Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet
To me, Advent is about hope. It’s about knowing that something better is coming, and this season I’m holding tightly to that truth.
What are you hoping for this Advent?