“If Christmas is for the joy, then Advent is for the longing.” – Sarah Bessey
Only two minutes into the first song of the concert, and I feel my tears building. “Uh-oh,” I think, as the lyrics rouse my slumbering heart and provoke an ache in my chest.
Gather round ye children come, listen to the old, old story
Of the power of death undone by an infant born of glory;
Son of God, Son of Man
I know that I will not be able to contain the swell of emotion that has been rising with ever-increasing urgency over the past few days.
I am being invited to enter into Advent.
I confess that I have been resisting it. In fact, the signs have been there: my irritation when I heard carols on the radio on November 1; my frustration when I found myself surrounded by racks of Christmas sweaters in the store; and (should I confess?) my anger when an SUV boasting a red Rudolph nose and antlers pulled up beside me at a stop light. “What is up with all of the Christmas cheer?!” I fume.
I know that I need to prepare my heart, mind, and soul for Christmas. To do this, I must slow down and create space so that I can acknowledge my emotions and address the tension that is stretching me thin. Sure, the irritation, frustration, and anger. But more so, the loss and longing of this year and the accompanying sorrow. This is what I have been actively resisting.
Now, settled in a dimly-lit theater listening to Andrew Peterson sing of the coming of Jesus, I finally surrender into Advent and let my tears fall. They are my confession.
Jesus, I confess that I find it difficult…
….to hold space for the mystery of God when confronted with the mayhem of this world.
…to keep the faith during a long season of waiting.
…to believe in resurrection life as I say another goodbye.
…to sing “Joy to the World” while my heart aches with deep sorrow.
…to live with expectant hope as I cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Rachel Held Evans once wrote, “A great light has shown, but there is still so much darkness to pierce, so much gloom to overcome.” Yes, there is still so much…
The tears continue to fall, and as they do, I sense my sorrow diminish and the ache subside. I feel no shame; instead, I feel peace settle in and around me like a warm, comforting blanket. As the evening continues to unfold, my tears become tears of gratitude and worship. Yes, I am still living in the tension of the “already, but not yet,” but my heart feels prepared to celebrate the “already” of the Savior who has come while simultaneously longing for his return.
On the fourth Sunday of Advent we light a candle that represents Mary, which is appropriately called the candle of joy. I can envision Mary’s joy as she gazed into the face of her newborn, knowing all that Gabriel had said, and I can presume the hope she must have clung to as she watched him die upon the cross. Mary had faith that the Son of the Most High had come. And she had faith that he would come again.
As I feel the light of joy flaming within my heart, I hold onto this same expectant hope. Advent reminds me that our Hope has come, and our Hope will come again. Because of this, I can wait with hope, with joy, and with expectancy.
A lover of story, Susan Tucker has always been captivated by beautiful writing. She is drawn to themes of tension, joy/grief, hope/loss, freedom/shame, which she explores in her own writing. Susan spends her days teaching middle school English, mothering her two teenage sons, and loving her husband of 25 years. She cherishes her first cup of coffee each morning, moments of quiet and solitude, restorative yoga, worship music, and faithful friends.nbsp