There was a time when I didn’t look forward to the Christmas season, when I felt I had little to celebrate and felt the chill of the weather far more than the warmth of the holidays. It was a time of great sorrow for me, long before I met my beautiful wife and we had our amazing kids. I was not sorrowful because I was lonely, though that was true at times. I was sorrowful, because I felt like I had lost something dear to me and couldn’t quite place my finger on what it was that was lost. I had become a weary wanderer, slogging through life in the aimless pursuit of something better.
The problem with Christmas was that I had no understanding of Advent. I had no expectation and, therefore, I had no hope.
I have said before on here how thankful I am that God relentlessly pursues people, that he is in the business of saving lives. If not for his great mercy and grace I would still be slogging through life. That thing, that person, that I was looking for was Jesus. I had known him intimately as a youth and then somewhere along the way I had allowed the pressures of life to get a grip on me, distracting and dragging me away to world of hopeless oblivion and loss of memory (http://bible.us/112/mat.13.7.niv84). It wasn’t until I stopped running away from my pursuer that I finally began to see that he was pursuing me so that I might finally live.
I was living in the in-between, unaware that a hero was there to rescue me, unable to hope.
I love to read epic fiction. Like so many others I have enjoyed the story of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and I am eagerly awaiting the movies. What I love most about this sweeping story and other like it isn’t the larger-than-life scenes of battle and the struggle to overcome hardship. It isn’t the fantastic worlds defined and communicated to my imagination. It isn’t the love stories, amazing creatures, or mysteries that appeal to me most. I love all of these things, of course, but what pulls me into a story most is that the hero is never quite who or what I expect. It isn’t the valiant dwarves, powerful wizards, or armies of elves that win the day. It is the small, portly, unassuming hobbit who steps into the light at the critical moment and offers the only thing he really has to offer – himself.
My problem with living in the in-between was that I was looking in the wrong place for a hero. I knew there was a deep longing in my soul for something more, and intellectually I knew that I should be looking to Jesus to supply my need. I was expecting some sort of dramatic rescue from my misery, a sudden event when I would be forcefully removed from the muck and mire I had allowed my life to become. But though I knew Jesus is the Christ, I had forgotten that in God’s grand epic the hero didn’t come as a conqueror leading an army into battle. He didn’t win the war by force. He came as a baby boy born in a manger, the very Son of God enfleshed, who became a man, who suffered a willing humiliation and death on a cross for me, and who was raised again to the right hand of God the Father.
It wasn’t until God showed me that Jesus came as the most unexpected of heroes that I realized my rescue couldn’t begin with an incursion. It had to begin with an Incarnation.
By the blood of Jesus Christ I have been saved, and by his resurrection I have gained a sure trust and hope in his promises. This hope has transformed Christmas for me, from a season of dreaded slogging into a season of expectation. The season of Advent helps us to live into this expectation as we both remember the coming of our Savior and Lord in the Incarnation and look forward with anticipation to his return. It is a season of active waiting. It is a season where my soul whispers ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come…’. And I can hardly wait.
Are you ready?