I’ve always loved Advent. Every year I look forward to the opportunity to celebrate the epic story of how the Almighty, Creator God chose to limit Himself and step into His creation in order to bring restoration to a world that has lost its luster. I love the tale of a God so magnanimous and compassionate that He chose to love those who turned away from Him to the point that He denied Himself His rightful place in the universe in order to dwell among us in the mundane, tedious, mucky world we’ve made of His pristine order.
But not this year.
This year, I’ve experienced a different kind of Advent. Instead of a season of light twinkling hope into the darkness and overflowing my spirit with the wonder of the glory of God, this year I’ve experience the Advent of a different carol. This year the darkness has seemed palpable; the brokenness of this world far greater than ever. This year Advent has been seasoned with loss—death, disease, the debilitating effects of age, hate, violence, disappointment, fear. Grief, rather than joy, has overshadowed the season, lending its bitter flavor to the daily Advent readings.
This year, I’m experiencing the Advent of the diaspora, longing for the hope of a Savior who with every passing day seems more like a fairy tale than a reality. I find myself pleading with tears in my eyes:
Oh come, oh come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel who mourns in lonely exile here…O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Satan’s tyranny; from depths of hell thy people save, and give them victory over the grave…O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight. O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind; bid thou our sad divisions cease, and be thyself our King of Peace.
This isn’t the Advent season I look forward to celebrating. I miss the exultant hope of angel voices and the promise of a miraculous star. But as hard as this season has been, I’m thankful for what the Lord is teaching me. Yes, the world we live in is very broken, and very dark. And yes, I find myself calling out, “how long o, Lord, how long?” But the old, old story reminds me that even when things look the darkest and hope seems too distant to grasp, the hand of God is still at work. Immanuel did come: he came where he was least expected in a manner so humble that only a few lowly shepherds were on hand to note his birth. He came. And his coming changed everything.
So as dark as this season may seem, I won’t give up hope. The light of my expectation may be dim, but I won’t let it go out. Immanuel will come again, and then…
No more will sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground. He’ll come to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found!
I know this is true, and so I will continue to cling to it as my hope and my prayer this Advent season. And no matter what type of Advent you are having this year, no matter where in the world you find yourself this Christmas, I hope you, too, get to experience the beauty of this truth.
Becky Hunsberger, M.Ed.
Coordinator of Teacher Education Services
*Since today’s OnPractice comes out so close to the Christmas holiday, we wanted to acknowledge the season and its impact on our faith and how we live.