Here we are again, y’all. That most wonderful time of the year. But I’m feeling a little bah-humbug myself. The thought of Black Friday shopping makes me break out in hives. Crowds and spending money like it’s going out of style stress me out. Plus, I see all the “stuff” around my house and can’t imagine why we need to add more to it (I stayed home in my pj’s and watched old movies all day). *Sigh* So, I have to do my annual refresh on my thought process (and my heart process).
First up, it’s remembering that we are in the season of Advent. So what does that mean exactly? Well, good ole Wikipedia is here to tell us (do you sometimes miss those Encyclopedia Britannicas as much as I do? Yes, they were older than me, but they smelled heavenly and the heft of picking one up left me feeling like I’d certainly accomplished something):
Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas as well as the return of Jesus at the second coming. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning “coming”. (Wikipedia)
Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. Luke 1:31 (CEB)
Expectant waiting…preparation…return of Jesus…second coming…It *does* sound exactly like how I used to feel as a kid just waiting (usually not so patiently) for Christmas to get here. That was rough! But the hope of what was to come kept me hanging on, feverishly anticipating what Santa might leave for me and for whatever was underneath all of that red and green wrapping paper. And that’s exactly how God wants us to feel about Him…living in abundant hope and longing for Jesus’s return with baited breath and a fervored excitement.
For me, 2018 has provided plenty of obstacles to living in that excitement and anticipation. And my horizon line still looks a little dark. So I long for the Advent feeling. Here’s the thing, though. That feeling came along with the Gift given to us all two thousand and some years ago. Our job here is to claim it. It slept softly under a blanket of stars, surrounded by the sounds of sheep and cattle, all while poor dirty shepherds and wealthy educated men bowed down side-by-side in reverence. When I finally get around to decorating the house, the moment I pull out my Maw Maw’s nativity scene, I will be overcome with the Advent feeling. It will breathe new life into me. I will feel the Hope envelope me and I will cling to it.
The truth is, I can live in fear/worry/fret ‘til the cows come home. Or, I can accept the Gift of Hope that this time of year signifies. I can hold on tightly to it (sometimes like a life raft). I can know that He is good, and I can believe beyond all measure that He is God.
God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.2 Corinthians 4:6 (CEB)
I encourage you, Friend, to join me in remembering what Advent is, and embracing it this season. I am going to choose Hope. I am going to claim Hope, and proclaim it. May the God who loves us, each and every one, be with you this season and always. May the Hope of Jesus live in your heart, and radiate outward into the world.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (CEB)
(photo credit to Getty Images for the featured image above)
It’s November 6th. And as the classic Andy Williams sings, “It’s (already) beginning to look a lot like Christmas“. There’s already TV commercials on TV ads of people wearing their Santa hats and kids opening gifts on Christmas morning. Stores quickly got rid of the fall decorations to put up the Christmas trees, wreathes and gift sets of cheeses and perfumes. My daughter started listening to Christmas music before the end of October! Right now I’m in Miami, Florida and there’s even a tall building where I’m looking out in the warm Miami sun with a ginormous wreath on the front of the sky-rise.
On November 1st my friend, whom I share an office with at work, and I were also about ready to listen to Christmas music at the beginning of November, and we did for about half an hour, but we weren’t quite ready and changed it to some good 70s and 80s music. But now it IS time to listen to it because it’s after Thanksgiving and I personally think, it’s officially the Christmas season. It also means it’s the first week of Advent, a tradition that has been passed down for thousands of years – the anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, when God became flesh and lived here on this earth for about 30 years.
At the beginning of November, I was in Miami, FL with my husband for a few days while he was at a conference for work. It has been the busiest schedule this fall and now that I’ve gone back to work after 17 years, it’s been an adjustment to what I’ve been used to. So, this was a needed break that I relishing and did the things that charge me up – reading, writing and listening. And since I was sitting outside at the pool, seeing this big Christmas wreath, I couldn’t help but think during this holiday season, it’s supposed to be a time for us to slow down, pay attention, listen, be at peace, realize all the things we need to be thankful for and the anticipation and joy of our Savior’s arrival. Even though Miami was anything but quiet and slow, I felt that way in my own little world there.
It made me think how life speeds up (probably over the speed limit sometimes), so much that we don’t have time to thank or reflect. We’re bombarded with extra responsibilities, shopping, gatherings, having to continuously warn our children they might get coal in their stockings if they don’t calm down and be-have! We’re bombarded with the world and the bombs being launched, social unrest, natural devastations, and evil. I can’t get off my mind the killing of 26 Christians while they were worshipping our God as a man comes in and guns almost half of them down.
How can we have any hope or peace in this crazy world, especially in the weeks to come when it’s supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”? Sometimes, especially during this holiday season, hope and joy feel like they’ve run dry in a desert with no sign of an oasis. It makes me think of Job in the Bible when he raised his voice and cried out in distress and desperation, “Where is my hope (in this crazy world)? Can anyone find it?” (Job 17:15) His spirit was crushed. He was in physical and emotional pain and now was pretty upset with God for allowing all these really hard and difficult things to happen to him.
God heard Job’s cry. He hears the cries of the loved ones of, and the victims in, the church shooting. He hears my cries and yours too as we sometimes feel frantic, overwhelmed, stressed or heart-broken. And that’s why He sent HOPE down to us. Hope that heals. Hope that comforts. Hope that restores joy. Hope that triumphs over our hopelessness.
On Christmas day, God gave us the gift of Hope. Imagine and believe this:
And you know – we don’t have to celebrate Jesus’ birth and the gift of hope just on December 25th. We should celebrate Christmas and Easter every day! Let’s be thankful for the hope Jesus never stops giving us.
What I’d really like to give you for Christmas
Is a star . . .
Brilliance in a package,
something you could keep in the pocket of your jeans
or in the pocket of your being.
Something to take out in times of darkness,
something that would never snuff out or tarnish,
something you could hold in your hand,
something for wonderment,
something for pondering,
something that would remind you of
what Christmas has always meant:
God’s Advent Light into the darkness of this world.
But stars are only God’s for giving,
and I must be content to give you words and wishes and
packages without stars.
But I can wish you life
as radiant as the Star
that announced the Christ Child’s coming,
and as filled with awe as the shepherds who stood
beneath its light.
And I can pass on to you the love
that has been given to me,
ignited countless times by others
who have knelt in Bethlehem’s light.
Perhaps, if you ask, God will give you a star.