Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Frustration of Advent

I remember growing up that Christmas was always a letdown. No matter how great it was, no matter how good "Santa Claus" was to me, I was always left at the end of the day wanting more; not more stuff, not more food, just more. I grew up knowing that Christmas was Christ's birthday. We went to church and sang all the Christmas carols, including "Silent Night" by candlelight on Christmas Eve. I wasn't satisfied, though. It wasn't until later, several years after I came to faith in Christ, that I realized what was missing. I was getting plenty of Christmas, but I was missing Christ. Even through all the church's Christmas celebrations, I was still missing Christ at Christmas.

Then, I discovered Advent.

I think it's more accurate to say that I was exposed to the idea of advent; a time of waiting and hoping and expecting that God's promises would be fulfilled at Christmas. If your church sings Christmas carols each week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there's nothing wrong with that. I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on the advent "liturgy" and suggest how it might enrich your celebration of Christmas this year:

  • Advent is a longing that mirrors the Gospel story. Advent tells a story of a broken people in need of a Savior. It tells of the coming of that Savior. It tells what He came to do, what He did, and what He will do. We, who were enslaved to sin, have been set free from the Law by the only One who could fulfill the Law's demands. Christmas is a sliver of that story that, when set apart from the larger Gospel narrative, leaves us unfulfilled and still longing.
  • Advent is a longing that is fulfilled at Christmas. Hold your breath for as long as you can. Ready? Go! How good did it feel when you finally gave in and breathed again? Now imagine that you haven't breathed for 400 years! The people of Israel hadn't heard a word from God for 400 years before Christ was born. Creation breathed a sigh of relief when the Savior took His first breath. In a sense, we were holding our breath as well, waiting for the coming of our Savior. So serious was our need, our hope, and now our joy.
  • Advent is a longing that will only be fulfilled at the second advent. I read a blog post where an author said that, as he has gotten older, he enjoys the anticipation of Christmas more than the holiday itself. I think that is by God's design. We are forever yearning for another time, another place, another experience. Those yearnings will not be satisfied until our faith becomes sight and we are face to face with our Savior and Lord. C.S. Lewis once wrote, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing."
Friends, it is tempting to get frustrated during this season of waiting. I believe this frustration is a good thing because it reminds us that we are not home yet. We have been called from darkness into light and our hearts still long for something more. We were made for perfect joy and fellowship with God, which will only occur when we are face to face with Him. Our salvation is "already and not yet." We who have agreed with God and placed our trust in Christ for our salvation have been set free from the penalty of sin. God is constantly at work in our lives to set us free from the power of sin and we long for the day when our faith becomes sight and we are set free from the presence of sin.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Image courtesy of nuchylee /

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