Monday, December 3, 2018

"Mood for Advent" or "Advent Mood"?

It’s been a rainy start to December. Not exactly the weather one chooses to get into the mood for Advent.

Or maybe it’s “Advent mood”?

During Lent a couple years ago, I shared a quote from blogger Addie Zierman about times when our whole lives feel like the Lenten season. Somber, weighed-down, incomplete. But as I sat down to begin compiling my thoughts for this year’s blog, I realized that this year has been characterized by an “advent mood.” I yearn for this season at the end of the year, but when I have a “waiting spirit” all 365 days of the year, it’s a bit like what the Pevensie children encounter when they arrive in Narnia—always winter, but never Christmas.

Yet, ancient Israel had hundreds upon hundreds of years of this kind of yearning. Dreaming of the day when the Messiah would appear. At Advent, all of us (throughout  time and space) together make our way through the promise, the waiting, the expectation. And we pray, trusting, and hoping beyond hope that our prayers mercifully collide with God’s out-stretched hands.

Like millions of Christ-followers before me, it is so easy to wander off the path laid before us. To seek truth in other places. To look back, down, and around, instead of upwards to the Father of Lights. Even as our whole lives feel full of waiting, the season of Advent on the church year calendar halts us in our steps and forces us to stop and take purposeful steps towards the humble birth of the glorious King. Our steps won’t always be reverent. Sometimes the road will be fraught with deep sorrow and suffering. But still we come, knowing the road to Bethlehem has been trodden, time and time again, by saints old and new. They will show us the way.

Yesterday we lit the first Advent candle, the candle of Hope.

We live in an interesting time in human history. For many people living in the western world, the idea that a whole nation’s hope would rest on the shoulders of an unseen savior coming sometime in the future is hard to wrap our minds around. But for others, it is something that they would cling to. If the Nativity was bound for Bethlehem, PA instead of ancient Judea, Christ’s birth would be highly anticipated by such as these:
Those who disagree with and dread the way the government is run, those who worry about their next meal and warm place to stay, those who come up against injustice and hatred every day, those who fear for their very lives and the ones they love.

As ancient Israel suffered a similar plight many hundreds of years before the Messiah’s coming, the prophet Isaiah spoke these words of magnificent assurance:

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:1-7)

Are you in an advent mood, or in the mood for Advent? The world is a broken place. We have been promised there will be suffering and hardship. But friends, the Hope that Isaiah spoke of has come.

For Jesus said: “. . . I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

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