This morning I refused the rush.
I refused the rush because if I didn’t slow down the whole thing was threatening to come unraveled. I was about to come completely unraveled.
So I resisted the urge to hurry off after I got my littles to pre-school (in what was sure to be a vain attempt to check off my holiday-sized to-do list in the 4.5 child-free hours I had anyway.) Instead, I lingered around my 4 year old’s classroom after drop-off and I grabbed his chubby little hand in mine as his class headed off to chapel. This mama was sorely in need of a few minutes in a room with old wooden pews, hymnals and a display of stain-glass windows whispering the story of the gospel.
I sat in one of those old wooden pews next to my middle son and together he and I watched Father Bill light the first candle on the Advent wreath as he explained to all the three and four-year-olds how precious this season was, how it was a season marked by peace, joy, love and hope and as little eyes watched, enthralled as that first, lone candle glowed and flickered and cast dancing shadows, I wondered how it was that this Believer’s heart could be so desperately lacking those exact things.
How could it be that a Believer’s heart could be so obviously lacking those exact things at this time of year especially?
Maybe it’s because only a Believer’s heart could wonder with such desperation, “Why are we still waiting, Lord?” And sometimes, if we’re not guarding ourselves well, that question can threaten to choke out all the peace, joy, love and hope that the arrival of the Christ-child promised.
So here’s my confession: sometimes I struggle with the waiting. Especially at this time of year I struggle with the waiting.
Earlier this week my friend looked at me hard and asked, “How are you?” and not in some quick passing way, but I could tell she was digging in her heels firm with the question. When I hesitated, she repeated, “I want to know how you are.” I wouldn’t get away with a pat response that refused to acknowledge the complicated state of my heart at the moment. Not with this lady. So I laid it out bare because there was so much going on but so little I could actually explain. I told her about all the big and little things that were threatening to pull the world in on top of me, and in maybe the only sentence that made sense in my little tirade, I said, “I seem to feel the weight of the broken world so much more palpably at this time of year.” And that was it. Right there. Something I hadn’t been able to put coherent explanation around until right then when she flat out asked me.
The world is broken. I feel the weight of that brokenness especially now during this long December month. So why are we still waiting?
The month of December is hallowed ground for the follower of Christ. A time when we look back with gratitude at what His first coming began and look with great expectation to what His next coming will complete. This season of Advent, in which we turn our attention to Christ’s coming or Christ’s arrival (that is what advent means) highlights more than any other season of the year why we need Him to come.
If things weren’t so irreparably broken then we wouldn’t be so anxiously awaiting His return.
And these last few years, as I have dug beneath the false veneer of the Christmas season for the first time in my life – with all it’s hype and commercialism and false promises – I have been surprised by the somber mood that has characterized these last two or three Decembers for me. As I’ve been thinking and praying and trying to get to the bottom of my new-found holiday blues, it’s has only just now occurred to me that perhaps God is graciously allowing me to perceive on a deeper level the great need for Him that exists. Perhaps He’s allowing me to see just a bit more clearly how much this world needs a Savior. And I guess that could be counted as a very good gift, couldn’t it?
This is the peace that He’s given me during this period of longing – maybe it’s ok that I’m in a season of life where this time of year affects me with me intensity than it ever has before. Maybe it’s ok that I feel the loss and heaviness and neediness of the broken world this December. Maybe those pangs of grief are pointing me with greater desperation to the coming of the promises He has made and encouraging my heart to set it’s eyes steadfastly on Him alone.
So when the wait is over this Christmas season – when the cookies have been eaten, the stockings have been emptied, the presents have been torn through and your entire family is sitting in a hazy food-induced stupor this Christmas evening, remember with me to wait for something better. Remember to long for His arrival – to set your hearts desperately on His coming and thank Him for the promise that He most certainly will – after the wait is over.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
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