Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
Words: Charles Wesley, 1744
This year as I contemplate Advent I am once again reminded of the great saints of the Christmas story that bring witness to faith, hope and steadfastness.
I am reminded of years when my trust in God was hope-filled like Mary’s, which I too praised God and waited in joyful expectation. Then there were times that I recognized, like Elizabeth, that truly nothing is impossible with God. There was even a time or two when I courageously stepped out in faith no matter how illogical it seemed.
But this year, I feel far more the skeptical. The world seems a bit more unbalanced than the past, and this has kicked up my doubt and fear. I find myself facing Christmas more like Zechariah than any of the others.
Advent offers us the time to prepare our hearts and minds to receive the greatest of gifts, the love of God. For some, preparing for the Messiah will include lighting candles and special readings. For others, Advent includes a mile long to do list. It is easy to stand up on Christmas Eve and realize that with all the busyness of preparing the church for Christmas, and miss personal Advent reflection.
How about you? Where do you land this Advent?
Advent presents us challenge, like Joseph. Troubled and losing sleep, Joseph set aside his logical plan to do God’s will. Are you faced with a dilemma today? How will you trust in God for guidance?
Advent invites us into silence, like Zechariah. Silencing the nagging questions and the countless debates. Silence allowed Zechariah to experience the wonder of his wife’s unlikely pregnancy, rather than give voice to his disbelief. How will you quiet the inner voices of fear and doubt this Advent?
Advent reminds us to hope, despite our current circumstances, like Elizabeth. Elizabeth responds to the message about her pregnancy with praise. She not only celebrates for herself but offers God praise for Mary’s miraculous pregnancy, too. How will you persistently hope for miracles?
Advent brings rejoicing, like Mary. She recognizes that God has done a great thing, and humbly accepts God’s plan. Mary submits herself as God’s servant. How will you joyfully offer yourself to God?
For me, I plan to take these lessons to heart. I recognize that change will not come from the outside but instead start with me. I am going to spend less being agitated by my news feed, and instead take time for silent waiting. I will not give up hope and expect miracles to happen. Come long expected Jesus, come and set us free.