Several years ago when our finances were less abundant than my time, I made an advent wreath of sorts for our family. It’s more of a basket than a traditional wreath and certainly nothing fancy as you can see. And the candles need replacing once again. It’s been sitting in a bin, packed away in the closet under the stairs, along with so many other Christmas memories from over the years. But this year it sits on our table once again. This year it seems appropriate to remember past seasons as we enter one anew. To wait. To hope. To look forward to something we’ve expected, longed for, desired for so long.
This year, more so than any other for many of us, we know what it’s like to wait. Like the Israelites over 2,000 years ago, we have felt the longing of what’s to come. Our circumstances are far different and our suffering is not comparable to theirs, but we know longing all the same. We’ve lived through uncertainty, through loss, through pain. We’ve watched our lives change in an instant, not knowing if we’ll ever see normal again, and oftentimes wondering what normal will even be.
This year, more so than any other perhaps, we need hope. We need that little bit of joy to look forward to each day, each week.
That little piece of joy is why we chose to give many of our friends and family advent calendars to open this year. A little bit of happy to open during the long, long winter. A little bit of joy when they remember how much they’re loved, even if that love is shown through a pair of Christmas socks or a jar of jam. It’s why we given our kids advent calendars each year for as long as I can remember. Not to take the story of advent away from Christ, but to point them to Him. To remind them that opening the little gift behind each door is a sweet addition to their day, but receiving the gift of Christ’s redemption and forgiveness is life changing. And is the only thing that offers eternal joy.
As we began our advent season tonight, I was reminded how often we miss that joy. How often we miss Him. As we read through Isaiah 9, I was reminded of how the Israelites were expecting a king, not The King of Kings. They were expecting a powerful ruler, someone to save them out of the bonds of slavery and injustice on earth. They did not expect this Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace to be a man of lowly stature, born in poverty. A man who lived a humble life and died a sinner’s death. They did not expect Jesus and so many of them missed the joy that only He could bring. I was struck by how often we do the same.
How often we are looking for Him in the blessing that we miss Him the affliction. How often we decide what good is and miss the good things he keeps from us. How often we choose what is easy over what is hard and in doing so, we miss the growth that he brings through crushing us and refining us in the fire. Like gold. How often we are content with being less than who He has created us to be.
And so as we enter into another advent season, let us remember. Let us see Him in this year. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11) and no thing does he give to us that is not for our good. Some of us have suffered tremendous losses this year. Loved ones. Jobs. Relationships. Connection. Peace. Health. Tremendous losses. Some of us are struggling to find the happy in each day. To find that little bit of joy.
But Jesus. He is here. He has come. We don’t have to wait for him like the first advent. We only need to remember. He is our hope. He is our joy.