“Do you know what Advent is?” I asked my children. All three looked at me with puzzled faces.
Then one said, “The days until Christmas!”
Another said, “Yes!”
“You are correct! But do you know what Advent means?” I asked.
“Don’t worry, I’ll tell you.”
As I lit the first candle in our homemade Advent wreath, I explained, “Advent is the season in which we celebrate the now and not yet. We get to prepare for Jesus’s birthday on Christmas, but also anticipate when Jesus comes again.”
Their eyes—all three sets—got really, really big.
One child said, “Wait! Jesus is coming back?”
Another child, “Are you serious?”
I knew in that moment I could either condemn my husband and I for the fact that our children had no idea Jesus is coming again or, I could embrace the sense of awe and wonder communicated in their wide-opened little eyes and trust that something wonderful had just come out of a hard month, and something good was to come. Our little family was in the middle of a now and not yet season of our own.
Dashed Expectations made way for a holy invitation
You see, November began with great expectations. We were gearing up to celebrate our 10-year anniversary with a weekend trip into the city where we were married. We were supposed to be out of the country for turkey day this year, but COVID changed those plans. So we decided to celebrate my birthday and then plan to meet family in a little home in upstate New York for Thanksgiving. Meeting halfway in New York seemed the next best thing.
That was until our November was hijacked by the pandemic and nothing went as planned. Instead of celebrating and being with family we were doing school from home, and having a birthday party and Thanksgiving over Zoom. We did get to celebrate our anniversary with a little backyard fire pit in an unprecedented early-November heat wave.
Admittedly, I was feeling all sorts of things—frustration, sadness, disappointment, and really overall grief as November felt like the culmination of a year that’s only consistent theme has been disruption.
And then, the nudging I had been feeling for weeks, even before November disappointed us, came so much clearer. It felt like a Holy invitation had been set before me. As if God was saying embrace the stripping—of plans, of expectations, of “how it used to be” thoughts—and be in this season. Slow down, child. Stop resisting the brakes I have allowed and the ones I have put in place.
And so, for the first time in years, and perhaps a gift from COVID, our little family was ready for Advent—after all, we had plenty of time in November to prepare. This was going to be our first season lighting candles and following a simple but helpful Advent guide full of Scripture and questions to ponder as we live in the now and not yet.
The purposes of His heart stand firm
It was 400 years between the last prophet’s words to the people of Israel and the coming of the Messiah. Four hundred years of wondering when He would arrive. And then when He did, He came in a way that most did not anticipate. How could the Savior King come as a baby? But he did, in the most humble and unexpected way to present the radical Good News. And He promises to come again. The now of the Savior having come and leaving behind His greater gift, Holy Spirit, and the not yet of His return; to fully redeem the world and God’s creation.
Advent reminds us that He has come. And this fact undergirds an unshakable faith that He will come again. The Bible tells us we don’t know the time or season in which He will return, but we know He will.
Psalms 33:11 says, “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
Not through some generations, but through ALL generations. Today, at this very moment, in this very season of the now and not yet, the purposes of His heart stand firm. What such Good News is that!
As we walk through this Advent season and anticipate the celebration that was Christ’s birth and the promise of His return, we can be comforted by the Holy Spirit as we live in the now and not yet. Christmas may look a bit different than year’s past – but perhaps, this is the Holy invitation to savor the anticipation. Perhaps this is our opportunity to drill down to the essentials of our faith, and see our eyes open big and wide at the wonder of the Savior who has come and is to come again.