By: Dan Seale
What happens when your experience of the Hap-happiest season of all doesn’t match up to the cheerful music, the smiling faces on commercials, the Instagram & FB posting perfection of your “friends”?
What if the prospect of spending extended time with your family doesn’t bring you holiday cheer but holiday fear? What if the idea of “family time” brings up feelings of profound disappointment and causes your deepest insecurities to bubble to the surface of your heart and mind?
If this is you, you are not alone. This time of year can heighten our sense of brokenness.
Some of you are wondering, why all the negativity? You love everything about this time of year. That is fantastic! Enjoy that gift but please keep reading to know how to empathize and love those who struggle at this time of year.
The truth is that the world is broken and there is great suffering, but the hope of the Bible is that God acts to rescue us and make all things new. Too often we try to numb ourselves to the pain in the world and in our own lives bypassing the proper means of grace and comfort that God has provided. This season can be a time where we feel the pain of fractured relationships, financial struggles, failed dreams and broken promises; and we look to other people or things to give us relief from the pain. The fact that others love this time of year is just another piece of evidence of our own failure.
Advent in many ways is best described as a season of darkness, a longing for the better reality to come, a waiting for the return of Jesus. In many ways Advent is the season we live in all year round.
Fleming Rutledge in her book Advent: the once and future coming of Jesus writes:
In a very real sense the Christian community lives in Advent all the time. It can well be called the Time Between, because the people of God live in the time between the first coming of Christ, incognito in the stable in Bethlehem, and his second coming, in glory to judge the living and the dead…Advent contains within itself the crucial balance of the now and the not-yet that our faith requires.
The disappointment, brokenness, suffering and pain that characterize life in this present world is held in dynamic tension with the promise of future glory that is yet to come. In that Advent tension, the church lives its life.
(Fleming Rutledge, Advent: the once and future coming of Jesus Christ, page 7)
We need to learn how to live as a people in this in between time, in the already and the not yet – in the Advent before Jesus comes again. We need to learn to hope in a God who is at work and is making all things new.
We need to learn to watch, wait, and act in hope in the promises of God. We should no longer be surprised by the intrusion of heartache and sadness but anticipate it and fix our eyes on the future coming of Jesus. Sadly, we have lost the spiritual practice of looking forward to the day when Jesus makes all things new. Sadly most of us are terrible at waiting for anything. Pregnant mothers have much to teach us about waiting and birth pains and joy (Romans 8).
We need to direct our hearts and minds to the promises of Jesus and allow them to be our comfort and strength as we wait.
It is in this between time that we as the people of God, the church, learn to wait and to act in hope for the return of Jesus. We must develop the spiritual practice of looking forward to the day when Jesus makes all things new to help us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves today.
Do not be discouraged if you feel the brokenness of the world during this time of year. However, remember that God kept his promise and sent Jesus the first time, and God will keep his promise and send Jesus again and set things right once and for all.