This afternoon, the house is quiet. Siblings and parents are either resting or doing something quiet, and bustle of people and plans is temporarily suspended. We put the Christmas tree in its corner this morning before church (decorating to come later tonight), and it gives a festive grace to whole main room with its soft greenness from the outside world.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. I love Advent. I love candlelight in the darkness that comes early. I love gathering together as a family to remember why this season is different than all others and why we have a hope that is different from all others. ‘Advent’ means ‘coming’, and I love gathering together to be reminded of how wondrous and how pivotal was the coming of Christ.
But right now, in the quietness, I am still trying to remind myself that this season is a season of celebration and of prophecies filled full.
The first Sunday of Advent is always right after Thanksgiving weekend at the end of November, and I think it always comes on the heels of a month of searching. All year round, we are searching for fulfillment and joy, yes, but November seems to highlight the struggles of our searching. Election Day came and answered the question we had been wondering for the past 4 years, but no matter who I did or didn’t want to win, I’m left a little disappointed. I’ve been scrambling to get school done in between traveling out of town and relatives coming in town. Thanksgiving came, and I had a wonderful break from school and time to rest and celebrate, but any holiday brings unmet expectations, and every holiday comes to an end and leaves you back in the day-to-day. I look back at my week and wish I had been able to get something more productive done.
It is a time I see how much I have to be grateful for, and yet am left seeing once again the truth I often try to ignore — that these things around me always leave me a little disappointed. I’m left realizing that the search isn’t over, and that what I thought I had found isn’t really what I was looking for.
The first of the four Advent candles is the prophets’ candle, and it reminds us of the prophets who told us that Jesus would come. They prophesied of a Messiah, an Anointed One, a King who would make the world right. Isaiah says:
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. …
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given….
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
Why does he describe something that sounds so perfect? Why tell of a thing we cannot achieve? Of something it seems we cannot find no matter how much we search?
C.S. Lewis wrote this about searching: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
A prophecy of a Messiah is a reminder that there is a reason my searching turns up short. But it tells me that what I am looking for is not in this sin-stained world.
Instead, it tells me that I am not longing for something that doesn’t exist.
It points me back to the core of who I was created to be: a human being made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It tells me that I am no fool to hunger for something beautiful and good, for joy and satisfaction and peace on this violent earth. The prophets call me to see that even in a land of darkness, the light has shone. That is something to celebrate.
The Messiah has come.