Before Thanksgiving, I had a longing to make Advent something different – something more meaningful – this year. Christmas is always a busy season for us, and I suppose for most everyone really, but it’s made especially so by John’s work every year with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. So I purchased an Advent devotional for John and me to read together each night, and I’ve been going through the She Reads Truth Advent devotionals each morning.
But this intentionality is not how I anticipated it. I expected Christmas joy and cheer, an excitement. Instead, what keeps coming up, from our community group’s Scripture readings to my daily devotionals, is Jesus’s death, not just his birth. We discussed this during our community group at our house, by the Christmas tree filled with lights and ornaments and colors. We read John 19:38-41 that they buried Jesus with myrrh, and I immediately thought of the wise men bringing that same gift of myrrh to Jesus at his birth. Before we sang Christmas carols together, one person mentioned that many of the traditional Christmas hymns are written in minor key, anticipating the reason that Jesus had to born. They are joyful yet somber. Although Advent is preparing for our Savior’s birth, this year I am more aware of why we needed his birth in the first place and that from the beginning, He was born to die… So that we might live.
None of this is new and you might have heard a lot of it before, but it’s what is resonating with me this season. Christ’s birth ultimately points to his death and his rebirth in the resurrection. So really Christmas also points to our re-birth that because Jesus was born, we also get to be born again.
Especially with our current national climate, with injustices happening around the world, with natural disasters and chaos, we need Christmas. We need Advent to hope in what we cannot see but that we believe – and know – to be redemptive. And this starts in my own life – in recognizing that I personally need Christmas, that I need Christ’s birth to redeem my own heart.
In a recent sermon at our church, a story was told about GK Chesterton’s response to a newspaper asking for an answer about what is wrong with the world today. He responded:
“Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”
The She Reads Truth Advent series says it this way: “We were created, loved, pursued, and redeemed. We did nothing to deserve the mercy that stems from the love we initially rejected — that we often still reject. We can never make any rules or attain enough perfection to gain favor in God’s eyes. But Jesus. Because of Jesus, there is grace. Christ finds us in our helpless state and intercedes for us before the Father — He becomes our perfect defense and righteousness, covering us with grace upon grace so that we can stand, chosen and blameless, in front of our God (Ephesians 1:4).”
Yes, Christmas is a time of celebration, but this Advent season I am also reflecting on the cost of that celebration. Yet ironically, in only a way that the Gospel can do, what started as a somber season has now turned into rejoicing.
As the Naptime Diaries Advent devotional writes: “God’s love story had to start with something tender and fresh and new. He chose to send Jesus into the world in a messy, natural manner. There wasn’t a clean palace with professional attendants and announcements. Instead, God chose a dirty stable and awkward marriage story… It wasn’t excellent or expert by the world’s standards. But it was perfect…”
God entered into our mess – my mess – in a startling, crazy love sort of way. And that is worth celebrating.