“Momma, what does ‘Advent’ mean?”3candles

Sophie is six and Sawyer is two. This year, since Sawyer is old enough to sit still for roughly five minutes (sometimes), we have started a new tradition with our kids. Each night during this Advent season, we read from Sally Lloyd Jones’ brilliant Jesus Storybook Bible. It begins “in the beginning”….much like John’s gospel. And it will take us through God’s story as it unfolds in Israel to the time of Christ’s birth. After our reading, the kids punch out that day’s block of the Lego Advent calendar and they build the piece for that day—so far we have a mail carrier, a mailbox, and a faceless snowman which Sophie thinks looks creepy.

I love Christmas – my kids love Christmas. I enjoy giving gifts. I enjoy even more that most of said gifts can be purchased from the comfort of my computer. There is joy and fun in the so-called “secular” parts of Christmas. Even if Jesus was taken completely out of the picture (as was/is the case for so many in our CofC tribe), what we “do” during Christmas whispers his name. As kids, we wait with expectation and joy at the coming of Christmas day—Santa is coming to town, after all. Our hearts seem to be built for hope. So, when Sophie asks, “Momma, what does ‘Advent’ mean?” we get to tell her the story. We get to revel in the wide-eyed expectation and hope of who’s coming–Jesus. Jesus is coming! The world hears the songs of hope…

Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!

This is a powerful season for me–it has been in recent years. Especially this year. I cannot escape the thoughts and feelings that have surrounded our world the last few weeks: Ferguson, Eric Garner…and the Social Media malady which has made my heart groan.

How do God’s people respond to the hurt? The pain? The brokenness? I have seen a lot of venom. I have seen a lot of rants. I have seen a lot of writers suggesting “truth” and “justice.” What I haven’t seen is a lot of grace.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Our world is weary. So very weary. We need hope. We need to see grace—experience grace. I have been part of a teaching team going through the gospel of John in our adult Bible classes at church on Sundays. As I have journeyed though John’s gospel, I can’t get away from this singular thought: if we want to know God, we have to take a good, hard look at Jesus. No matter what we think we know, what we struggle with…or cling to, in the Old Testament’s witness of God –the one thing we can know without a doubt is the fullness of who God is, is made manifest in Christ. And John tells us that if we know Christ, we will obey his commandments–and he tells us exactly what that means: Love. Selfless, cruciform love. Love that makes itself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, putting others before itself.

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease

That is where I cling to hope. Always in Jesus. Only in Jesus. And I anticipate Christ’s coming–both in the Advent season and in our already/not yet kingdom mindset–more and more every year. And so we sing of hope. For our world of hurt, pain, injustice, suffering and brokenness we sing our defiant songs of love, hope and anticipation of Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord, O praise his name forever!