I have issues with this time of year. Advent is the few weeks leading up to Christmas. It is a season of waiting. I hate waiting! I like to be busy, I like to get things done and I like to be proactive. It’s a great way of pushing away uncomfortable feelings I don’t want to acknowledge. Busyness can fool me into believing I am the author of my own destiny, I am in control. Yet, I know this is a deception. In so many areas of life, I am at the mercy of others. Whether in a shop longing for the assistant to return and tell me they have that dress I’ve set my heart on in my size or in the car waiting for the vehicle in front to hurry up and turn right or hoping my on-line order arrives before Christmas, I can do nothing but wait and hope.
This brings me to the other difficulty I have with Advent, hope. Hope is precious but fragile. This year I’ve had hopes that have been disappointed. Hope for a position of responsibility so I could pursue a vision for an organisation I care passionately about, hope for healing from my depression which has returned despite years of hard work and wading through a vast reservoir of tears, hope that years of study and faithful service would lead to some kind of formal recognition in the church, as well as new opportunities for paid employment. The child in me is hurt and angry. She’s screaming, “It’s not fair!” I don’t understand why some appear to get rewarded while others don’t get what they hope and pray for. I am tormented by the question, ‘what have I done or failed to do that God should ignore my pleas and petitions?’ And I know for many, my sadness and frustration is nothing compared to their daily, demeaning, soul-destroying struggle just to survive.
So what difference does a baby born over 2000 years ago make? Despite all that I wish were otherwise, I am still astounded that the Creator of the Universe took on our flawed and frail humanity. He became flesh and blood, allowed himself to be formed in a womb and for uterine contractions to push him out into a world of dirt, poverty, social exclusion and religious segregation. God’s love is real and all-consuming to be so embodied in the person of Jesus Christ! And what hope his birth unleashed in all those who knew his true identity. His uncle, Zechariah, describes him as, “…a horn of salvation for us…to rescue us from the hand of our enemies and to enable us to serve him without fear.” (Luke 1:69&74) His mother Mary says of God, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51-53) But has He? Really?
If I’m honest, the answer is probably yes and no! While I find it easy to reel off my disappointments and look at all the injustices that persist in the world, I have to balance this out with all the good things that I’ve experienced this year. As I’ve chosen to let people into my grief and fear, friendships have become stronger and deeper. There have been times when I’ve actually felt held, in an emotional sense. Also, I’ve become more sure of who God has made me to be and that I’m investing time and energy in fulfilling Her ultimate purpose for my life. Surely these are gifts of truest value? I was looking for tangible expressions of affirmation like a job title and salary, yet been blessed with something unseen but so much more important! “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what has been promised. For in just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one live by faith…Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 10:35-11:1)