It’s December 1. The very beginning of the Advent season.
It’s also the season of Christmas trees and Shutterfly cards and baking cookies and hosting parties and the season that has turned waiting for a Messiah into eating a piece of chocolate each night before Christmas or opening 25 small presents each day which have nothing to do with Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong. I love trees and lights and hot chocolate (or cold for that matter) and poor Stephen already has a lengthily list of things our family (with our 8 month old baby who has literally no idea what’s happening half the time) will be doing between now and January 1. It’s for the baby, I say.
We’ve gotten a tree, put about ten million lights on it, donned our Christmas jammies and drank cocoa out of our Santa mugs. And I loved each second of it so far.
But, here’s the thing, I know the family friendly “Advent” Pinterest boards and jammies and Home Alone marathons are empty calories. In reality, those things mean nothing. And truth be told, have nothing to do with Jesus and what we say this season is all about.
Those things, while fun and cute and heartwarming, only leave me aching and longing for the real solution, the real answer, the real hope fulfilled.
Because, the reality is, my life has a lot of darkness in it. And from looking around, and knowing many of you reading this now, I can say with certainty that your life has darkness too.
And no amount of Christmas music or elves on shelves or gingerbread men can bring actual light into the very real darkness we’re facing.
Darkness, to me, often means waiting. It’s waiting for the light the break, for the end to come in sight, for an answer to glimmer through. It’s waiting while we’re in the darkness of unknowing and powerlessness to change the circumstances.
It’s waiting for answers from doctors. Waiting for loved ones to get out of the ICU. Waiting for babies to come. Waiting for surgeries to be scheduled. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for responses or actions from others. Waiting to leave the country and finally start the thing you’ve been rearranging your life for. Waiting for a referral from an adoption agency. Waiting for a new job to open up. Waiting for any door anywhere to open so you can move on.
Waiting. Lots of waiting is happening right now, and that waiting is happening in darkness.
And to that, to the darkness and the pain of the wait, I need a Messiah. I need a Savior. I need someone to come in a undo all the sad, all the pain, all the fear, answer all the aches and heal all the wounds. I need God.
I don’t need stockings. I don’t need to haul my baby to a million Christmas events (again, 8 months old. Happy with fingers in his mouth.). I don’y need to watch every Christmas movie made or make all the beautiful Pinterest things I pin.
I need Jesus.
I need real hope in my real and very present darkness.
“The people walking in darkness have seen great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2.
These words were written about the remnant of God’s people living forgotten, living under oppressive rule and leadership. Living in very dark times, and waiting and hoping against all odds and better judgement that God didn’t lie. That a Messiah, a King, a Savior would in fact come to rescue them. That God would send Someone to shine a light, to break the darkness and the waiting, and lead them out from their pain into actual, real joy.
And those words feel more relevant now than ever before in my life. If ever there were a people living in a land of deep darkness, it’s us. It’s now. It’s this whole earth. It’s my family and your family and everyone else we know.
And as this author beautiful put it, “…the light of true hope is found in the midst of darkness.” I am not intimated by the darkness of my life or your situation or our world, even. Because it is only in the darkness that the light shines. And I believe God is Who He says He is, and I believe that Jesus is our Messiah, our Savior. That said, nothing can be too dark or too big or too painful for Him to overcome or breakthrough or conquer. Nothing.
While there are plenty of things my Christmas music and tree and jammies can’t restore, there is nothing that Jesus cannot undo or heal.
And I want this season to mean something. I want the full weight of Who Jesus is and was and what His birth meant to penetrate my life and do the work it’s meant to do. But in order for that to happen, in order for the light to dawn, I have to bravely acknowledge the darkness. I have to mourn the darkness. I have to wait. I have to sit in the fullness and discomfort of waiting in order to fully be liberated.
That’s not a Hallmark Channel Christmas special, but man it feels honest and it feels like it will actually lead to something of substance.
So yes, I am going to drag my not-knowing-where-he-is-or-what’s-going-on baby to Macy’s Christmas display, and I am going to make many cinnamon ornaments and we will in fact send out photo Christmas cards. But we will also sit in the pain of the wait, knowing that a light is about to dawn. And we will put our stock and hope in Him, not the music or the lights. But in Jesus.\
The wait, the Advent, is painful. But that’s what Jesus stepped into and what He came for, our pain.
So here we wait.