I remember walking into a store in October and employees were already putting up Christmas decorations. I thought to myself — “You can’t be serious, this is happening way too early.” I wasn’t ready for Christmas and I didn’t want to think about it — especially not in October.
However, with everything that has happened this year — the violence, the natural disasters, and the world’s brokenness seemingly increasing, the Advent season couldn’t come soon enough.
Romans 8:22-23 says, “The whole creation has been groaning together for redemption.”
Advent is where we embrace that groaning for redemption, but we wait with hope. We recognize and lament the brokenness and suffering in this world, but we await the final Advent, where Jesus’ return will make everything right. However, while we wait and long for Jesus to bring justice and peace here on earth, we must recognize that God’s plan of redemption is already underway. He is already restoring and redeeming the world through different means. As a community in this season, we need to think about ways that we can join in on God’s work of redemption in this world.
For many of us, the Christmas season isn’t that celebratory. It’s a reminder of broken relationships or loneliness. We wait for love or marriage without knowing if it will come. We wait for a better job or just a job. Our hope is waning. We wait for healing. We wait for justice. It’s hard to wait if you don’t know when it’s going to end, or if it is going to end. The Christmas season with all of the commercials and expectations can remind us of unfulfilled longings in our hearts.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that, “We simply have to wait and wait. The celebration of Advent is possible only to those troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”
Those of us with heavy hearts can identify with the longing and waiting for Christ to come again to make everything right. As we wait, it can be very easy for us to believe that our suffering is because God abandoned us. However, Advent’s message tells a different story. God becoming man means that we have an incredible resource. Jesus knows what it’s like to experience hunger, injustice, betrayal, rejection, and suffering.
Not only did Jesus suffer to be a resource and comfort to us, He suffered to draw near to us. God descended from heaven so that He could know us. He wants to be in relationship with us. Although we may not know the reason why God allows suffering to continue, we know it isn’t because he doesn’t love or care for us. Jesus was so committed to our ultimate happiness that he was willing to suffer and die for us. Christmas is about God going to great lengths to be with us. The question for us this Advent season is — are we going to draw near to Him?