Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
-It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
I first heard of Advent a couple years ago.
Technically we had an Advent calendar growing up, but it was really a Countdown to Christmas calendar.
And it’s days like that this that I wish we hadn’t allowed the season to be drowned out by Santa and his merry elves.
Because Advent is not the season of joyful exultation.
Advent is the season of anticipation.
It is everything that leads up to the manger. It is the broken world crying out: for answers, for healing, for salvation, for the presence of God.
It is the desperate waiting for a light to break through the darkness.
I don’t know why this part of the Christian calendar has been brushed aside.
Because we need Advent.
On days like this, we can’t escape humanity’s brokenness. We find ourselves face to face with embodied evil, and he’s human just like the rest of us.
And in the deep black of that night, we don’t need a cheerful snowman.
We need hope.
We need the promise of a savior who is making the world right, not just decked halls and a pile of presents and another twinkle lit marketing campaign.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
-O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
This is the reality of the world we have created.
Where companies are more concerned with increasing the black numbers in their ledgers than with doing right by their employees.
And we’re all scrambling, panicked and desperate, because there’s so much to do. We’re trying to manufacture joy and buy our way into the Christmas spirit. And we’re failing. So we just keep trying harder.
And every morning I wake up to 25 new emails full of sales and deals and buy here! and buy now!
And if we bought those plates, the beautiful ones with the matching serving bowl, maybe there would be people to fill in the seats around the table.
And it’s such a lie, but it’s packaged by the very best salesmen. And we’re buying.
And people that you share a church with, that you worship next to, take your money and promise to do a job, promise to come through for you. And they just don’t. And the money’s gone.
And in Washington, men and women argue behind closed doors, taking pride in the fact that they have no common ground.
And another government is threatening chemical warfare against their own people, clinging to their waning authority. Everyone just clawing and grasping for any bit of power.
And then, my God, a man carries a gun into an elementary school. And opens fire on children. And there was no other goal, just the murder of the helpless.
And instead of unwrapping the gifts sitting under their trees, instead of snuggling them by the fire, instead of cookies for Santa, those parents will be burying their babies this Christmas. And there is no sense in that.
And I want to run.
I posted that I don’t want to live on this planet anymore. And people suggested “to the moon” and “there might be a colony on Mars”.
But that’s not far enough. I don’t want another geographical location.
I’m longing for another place. I’m longing for a different existence.
I get in the car and I turn on the songs that ring deep in my soul, singing praise to a God that is in this with us, Emmanuel.
“You’re telling me that there’s no hope; I’m telling you, you’re wrong.”
You’re wrong. You’re wrong. I’m fighting for hope inside my own head. Clinging to a good God. Clinging to the story of the young woman and the shepherds and the angels and the baby in the manger-the one who promised peace.
“Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.”
I’m singing it like a desperate plea.
Lord have mercy.
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
-It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
*Christmas is supposed to begin on the 25th of December, and then last for 12 days. (Hence, the song that never made one bit of sense to me).