I didn’t grow up doing Advent. I mean, of course we counted down the days until Christmas. We made those paper chains out of green and red paper, dutifully tearing off a chain each day with anticipation. Maybe we even had one of those chocolate filled calendars one year, I can’t quite remember. But we never did Advent in the religious sense — the lighting of weekly candles or reading of daily Scripture or devotionals. We always read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve and attended a special Christmas Eve service, but other than that I never found myself thinking about “the true meaning of Christmas” until the big day itself.
Over the years, I’ve never found myself longing for Jesus or wanting to enjoy him more during the Christmas season. In fact, I always kind of scoffed at people who felt closer or more spiritual during the holidays — it felt manufactured to me. And anyone who knows me knows that I hate doing what everyone else is doing, just because it’s the popular thing at the moment. Feelings and I have a strange relationship, I don’t trust my feelings and they have often betrayed me — being absent when they are supposed to be present and vice versa. So, “feeling” in the Christmas spirit or truly connecting with Jesus in a deeper way just because we are celebrating the day of his birth? Yeah, that’s just not me.
But this year? This year is different. I’ve spent almost the entirety of 2013 waiting for something. Waiting for my baby to grow in my belly. Waiting to figure out whether we’d move, or our house would sell, or where this third child would go in our 2 bedroom house. Waiting for health to find our family after 20 weeks of morning sickness, a slipped disc for Brian, surgery and therapy for Nolan, cold/flu/virus after virus affecting various family members, etc. Waiting for our hospital bills to even out so we could make progress with our financial goals. Waiting for this season to pass of hardships and being tired and struggling to enjoy parenting. Lots of waiting. And not waiting well, I might add. I’ve complained, fretted, cried, prayed (in desperation, not trust), been jealous, demanding, ungrateful, and hurt some who are closest to me.
Many of those things are now resolved, but a few of the trials are ongoing (Brian’s back, general sickness, random house/car expenses, etc.). For the most part I feel like my season of waiting is over. And then I started reading The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. It’s a daily devotional for the Advent season. I realized that I am still waiting. In many ways, until the day I die I will be waiting. This world is very clearly not my home, as it has never fully satisfied me or given me the fulfillment I’ve longed for. And as long as I keep trying to find joy and happiness in the things around me, even good things like family or health, I’m going to feel dissatisfied in the waiting. But there is a kind of joy that can be found in waiting for the right things in the right way. The waiting doesn’t have to be an excruciating experience. It can be a waiting filled with hope. Hope for a day when all my needs will be met. Hope for a day in which I will be fully satisfied in the One who my soul has been longing for all along.
The word advent means “coming.” That’s why I can wait with anticipation and hope — Jesus is coming. It’s not some fanciful or whimsical hope. It’s rock solid hope. It will happen. He will come. We aren’t waiting for a made up character like Santa or a dream fantasy to come true. We are waiting for Someone who is ultimately trustworthy and incredibly faithful. And if I feel the ache and the emptiness of an unsatisfying world until then, may it just make me look all the harder towards Him. To the day when His love story with us will be consummated. That’s the kind of waiting I can get excited about!