I love the season of Advent. I love the traditions our family has grown into that build from the Old Testament promises up to the long-awaited birth of Christ over the month of December.
I love reading the Christmas story slowly and thinking about each of the real-live humans God called to play a part in the first Christmas.What were their days like leading up to the birth of Christ?
What was Mary expecting as she carried the Christ child in her womb? I’ve lived through Christmas with a belly swelling with new life – did she have the same pregnancy worries I did?
How tired were Joseph’s feet as he walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem? Was he so used to walking that the journey was simply a matter of course?
Were the hearts of the Magi beating wildly in their chests as they approached their hearts’ desire?
Was the Inn Keeper a little ashamed this baby had to be born in his stable? Or was that so common and the Christ so unexpected that it was just another baby from just another couple on just any old day?
And all the other people in Bethlehem, whether they lived there or were gathering for the census, were they still longing and hoping for the promised Messiah? Or were they a little bit like modern-day Christians: holding onto a promise for a coming Messiah that was made to other people in another time and would probably come long after their deaths? Was the promise of a Messiah fresh in their hearts as they waited? Or was it a fact they passed down, believing, but not quite grasping that it really could happen in their time?
As much as I love the building drama of the Christmas story, it always creates a longing in my heart for Christ’s return. Most of the year I know Christ will return, but somehow Advent, the time I see so clearly the actuality of a long-awaited promise being fulfilled, reawakens hope and desire and expectation of the return of the Prince of Peace.
I think perhaps it should.
It is easy to get busy with life and forget Christ will return. It is easy to think of those promises made long ago coming to fulfillment in the lives of generations who will follow me. It is hard to think I might live to see the day when the “clouds be rolled back as a scroll, and the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend” (from It is Well with My Soul by Horatio G. Spaford). It is hard to think I might be gathered to the clouds rather than taste death. Something worth hoping for, but on a daily basis I don’t really expect it. I don’t eagerly await it.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27-28
So as we enter this season of Advent, I am praying for a heart thrilled with the past fulfillment of promise. I am also praying my heart is full of anticipation and longing for the fulfillment of the coming promise: the return of the King of Kings. I pray for longing for him to come and save all those who eagerly await him. I pray for eagerness for his return. I pray for a desire for heaven that reaches beyond the busyness of the season, past the hopes for 2015, and into an eternal future free from tears, death, sickness, riots, wars, sorrow, and grief. And I cling to the reality of the first coming to provide confidence in the certainty of the second coming. And in the midst of all this, I pray I will live faithfully in the pause between comings, that when Christ returns and lifts my head because of His righteousness, he might say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Yes. I love Advent.