I love advent. It may seem strange because advent seems to be a family oriented religious tradition. I can remember having a wreath at home and doing devotionals. Now, I don't have my own wreath (although I should look into getting one!) but I do read advent devos throughout this season. I LOVE advent almost as much as Christmas day and here is why.
(1) Advent focuses on our Lord. First and foremost, no matter what is wrong in your life, you have the opportunity to spend this month focusing on the Savior's first coming and His second coming. If that's all we ever have, that is enough.
(2) Advent gives HOPE in God's provision, plan and timing. Advent reminds us that the Lord provides for His people -- spiritually and otherwise. It reminds us that the Lord's perfect plans don't always come in expected ways (hello, the KING was born in a manger to a young girl who its likely many judged for her pregnancy). It reminds us that the Lord's timing is perfect as well. God's people waited for years for Jesus' arrival. I am sure their waiting seemed painful and frustrating, but the Lord had perfect timing, just like He does in our lives.
(3) Advent reminds us that the Savior LOVES us and can RELATE. Spending this holiday alone? Going through a divorce? Just moved away from all your friends and family to the mission field? Waiting on a child? Sick or watching someone you love suffer with an illness? DO you feel no one understands and gets it? Advent is a reminder that our Savior doesn't just save us, He understands us. He loved us so much that He not only died a painful death, but left perfection to come live in our broken world for 33 years. So when your heart aches because this year has been rough, when you struggle to celebrate the season because of your circumstances, your Savior understands earthly pain, loss and rejection and can relate. You Savior loves you so much that He came down and lived in this painful world so that you wouldn't have to always live in brokeness. Emmanuel is "GOD WITH US"! That fact alone should encourage you to celebrate His birth even in rough circumstance...because His birth means that you are not alone in your pain.
(4) Advent turns waiting into anticipation. I LOVE this aspect of Advent. Most people are waiting for something in their lives. Dave and I spoke of this yesterday, how he is waiting for school to be done. People are waiting for healing, marriages, jobs, children, etc. Waiting isn't an easy thing to do. It sometimes feels like a prolonged NO. In fact, sometimes I think a NO is easier because you accept God's answer, mourn the situation and move on to live a full life.....but waiting is sometimes painful and discouraging. BUT, during advent, we are taught that waiting can be a time of anticipation. It becomes a mixture of longing and belief that God is working! Instead of waiting being just an in between period of time from the time a need is realized to the time it is met, waiting becomes a time of preparation, JOYFUL anticipation and purpose. I fail to apply this view (waiting as anticipation) all year long and I'm trying to do that more, but Advent has helped me see that God uses the waiting.
(5) Advent reminds us that we are not HOME yet. Advent isn't just a reminder of Jesus' first coming; it is a reminder that He will come again! The pain and waiting and broken heartedness that either you are feeling or you are witnessing in someone else this Christmas season will one day be gone. As the author of the Jesus Storybook Bible says, "Every sad thing willl come untrue!" We are waiting for all sorts of things, but ultimately we are waiting to be with the Lord in Paradise!
(6) Advent reminds us that God is faithful (to us although we are undeserving!) and He will be faithful again! He came the first time and He will come back for us. We are fortunate to live after Christ's birth and death because we have already witnessed that God is faithful to come for His people. We can look at that and trust that He is coming again! We can also look to His first coming and know that He will be faithful to us in all circumstances!
(7) Advent takes our daily waiting (for trivial things, for big things) and makes it something much more important. Now, your longing and waiting for a child, spouse, job can be much more. It can be waiting in an earthly sense, but can point you to the reality that whether you know it or not, what you are really waiting for is to go home to be with your Savior to an unbroken world. I have learned, through advent and life in general, that the hidden blessing of waiting is that those who wait tend to have a greater longing for heaven, a greater realization that this sinful broken world is not our home. One of the main ways God uses our earthly waiting is to remind us of what we should be waiting for (most of all!)!!
I love advent and am so excited that it is here. My prayer is that it points my heart to focus on Christ, His love and grace and the hope (both earthly and eternal) that his hope brings....even in the waiting! Bear with me as I will have several advent posts over the next several weeks.