My answer was a pretty confident and content “no” to all of the above. Maybe it was because we had just left 3 months prior, and everything felt so new and temporary. Maybe we just didn’t know better. But I was pretty content to spend Thanksgiving with a family we had just begun to know and to spend our first Christmas alone, as a little family of four, with no expectations whatsoever. I actually loved it.
This year. Oh what a difference a year can make. The Lord has provided greatly in terms of relationships (a few close friends can make all the difference) but I am feeling the sting of traditions past and gatherings that no longer beg of our attendance.
It surprises me most to say we have walked the stages of grief this year, and my heart so desires the old and familiar. The safe and comfortable. I had no idea uprooting our family and moving halfway across the country could cause us to mourn as if there were a death. Just when I feel the wounds begin to heal and acceptance drawing near, despair rears it’s ugly head and the tears come unbidden. I. miss. home. But it’s so much more.
I am more confident than ever that I am ready for Jesus to return and make all the sad things untrue. My prayers frequently end with “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” I found the following spoken piece by Jars of Clay while working on the children’s Christmas pageant. This life IS advent. We are waiting. We are not home. Come, thou long expected Jesus.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” Romans 8:22
Every Christmas I’m reminded of the longing I felt growing up as I would anticipate this special day. And while I recognize that I was more excited about opening gifts than anything else, the longing is still appropriate. The days leading up to Christmas, Advent, (or waiting) are about anticipation; reflection; feeling the weight of the coming of the Christ child.
And though we immerse ourselves in the spiritual practice of waiting, we know that Jesus has already come. It’s this tension that we live in. The in-between. The already and the not yet. This season of Advent is a reminder of the broader groaning in anticipation we experience all lifelong for the restoration of this broken world.
The Christian journey is a long-term Advent. A patient longing for renewal and destination. For restoration. When there is finally no curse and our souls are at rest. However lest we feel like we are stuck in a waiting room, remember that Emanuel means “God with us.” Christ has come and we have a present peace and assurance through him.
May the hope of God becoming man bring us strength and joy today as we wait amidst the brokenness of this groaning world. May the peace of Jesus bring light to the darkness that threatens to overwhelm.
(Jars of Clay, Peace is Here; Christmas reflections)