It’s January, and the latter part of January at that. I’m not sure how this happened but time is consistent that way, always forging ahead whether we’re ready or not.
I know it’s January, but my head is struggling with this concept. I feel like a hurdler who came out of the starting block all wrong and knocks down each hurdle due to an unfortunate misstart to the race. I blame it on Advent.
My Advent experience of 2015 was polar opposite 2014. In 2014, I clung to God like a child whose parents were about to leave town for a long getaway; intent on holding Him close and struggling in disbelief that He’ll actually come back.
I read my Bible and Advent devotional as if my life depended on it, because in many ways, my life actually did depend on it. The scriptures and words surrounding them were like a balm to my chapped soul.
I was often awakened in the middle of the night, unsure of events on the other side of the world where my husband battled evils both seen and unseen as we fought to bring our daughter home.
I would slide out of bed onto my knees over the vent in our bedroom, heat blasting up into my pant legs and drying out my throat, put in my earbuds, turn on the Steffany Gretzinger Pandora station and cry out to God in a Romans 8:26 kinda way. Hoping for what I couldn’t see, persevering oh-so-eagerly, trusting for the Spirit to intercede.
To say Advent 2014 was a sweet time would be to tie a neat little Christian bow on six years of confusion and suffering. It wasn’t sweet. It was one of the hardest months of my life. It wasn’t sweet, but it was right in the only way an upside-down God works his Kingdom come here on Earth.
I remember putting clothes into my daughter’s drawers on a particularly despairing day. Or maybe they all felt despairing; looking back I’m not sure. As I was folding up tiny pants and shirts, organizing shoes I had only dreamed of her wearing, I challenged Him. Do not make me take these out of here. I am putting these clothes in drawers by faith, and I need you to do what you said. I need you to bring her home.
As clear as day He told me again, as He’d done over and over for months, I am making a way.
That day Advent became real to me in a way it had never been before. With tears streaming down my face, a mug of hot tea gone cold in my hand, Advent became real. I’d been a Christian for over 10 years but in that moment, that Heaven breaking through moment, I believed in my marrow: He is actually coming back.
The birth of our Savior and his first sweet sleep in a feeding trough is a beautiful story, but it is only half the story. The story behind the story is that he is coming back. And on that frigid December day, surrounded by my daughter’s clothes, I actually believed it.
This Advent I read maybe four days of devotional and didn’t crack my bible after that. I read zero biblical materials to my kids (outside of our homeschool curriculum) and let them watch way too much TV, including A Christmas Story which started the proliferation of the “F” word in our house.
When I was prompted by the Spirit, or the neighbor’s delirious rooster, to wake at 3am, I didn’t get on my knees in prayer, I pulled out my phone and scrolled Pinterest.
It felt long and dark and drab, despite our relocation from gray midwest winters to sunny Florida’s southern-most tip. I was surrounded by palm trees but I might as well been weighted down under a heavy blanket of snow. It was hard to breath.
But you know what? Jesus still came. And he’s still coming. His intrinsicness as God has nothing to do with me and my desire for His word or faithfulness in prayer or commitment to devotionals or whether or not I read my kids the Jesus Storybook Bible before breakfast or let them eat chocolate instead.
Jesus came because it was God’s plan for our weary world, not because I earned him. And He’s coming back because that is God’s design to restore the ruins of the fall, not because I’m wooing him with my prayers.
I’m thankful God is just as much himself in the long, distant seasons as He is in the near and dear ones.
He still comes. Regardless of our response to waiting and unknown and difficulty, He still loves us enough to put on skin and move into our neighborhood. Which is exactly what Advent is all about.