Is this holiday season supposed to be a time of celebration…or of mourning? Most people would argue that it is a fully joyous occasion and there is no reason for sadness. However, as Christians, I hope we can make room for a little bit of both. We will be observing the season of Advent in our services, and the purpose of this post is to remind us of the two-sided nature of the season. The word advent means “coming,” and this time is characterized by anticipation and waiting. The following quote says it so well:
“The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Long ago, Israel found themselves in tough circumstances brought on by their sin. They had decided that God was not enough for them and wandered off into idolatry, mimicking the pagan lifestyles of nations around them. They had been captured by other nations and taken into exile, being forced to leave their beloved promised land. Life was hard. They were worked and overworked. At times they had limited food supply. They were living in this daily set of discouraging circumstances when Isaiah comes on the scene proclaiming good news of deliverance. A Baby would be born and, though He would live a perfect life, He would suffer the punishment for all sin. A final sacrifice would be offered. Jesus Christ would die to bring redemption to all people.
If you can imagine, they were living in celebration AND mourning. Yes, they would have deliverance, but not yet. They still had to endure the grueling circumstances of this life while looking forward to their coming Messiah.
We are connected to these Israelites of long ago. We live in a sinful world full of deception, idolatry, selfishness, rebellion, and the list goes on. We should be troubled by these things, knowing that we too struggle to remain true to our Holy God. We find ourselves living like the pagan people around us. We refuse to live lives wholly committed to Him. Instead, we spread ourselves thin, giving only a little bit of leftover effort, time, money, and service to Him. Yes, we fail just as the Israelites did. BUT THERE IS HOPE! As Bonhoeffer put it, we have something greater to look forward to.
Our troubles will only last for a time, then they will be replaced by a life side-by-side with our “Blessed Hope”! So, during this Advent season, mourn. Take time to remember the ugly circumstances we live in. Confess your wayward heart to the Lord. Then take heart, those who are waiting. Jesus will return and ransom His bride!