And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke: 8 – 12 (NIV)
Working for a major hotel chain after graduation from college, I came to adore the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Right after Turkey Day, holiday decorations transformed the lobby from a normally utilitarian meeting spot to a glowing, sparkling space to celebrate community. Throughout the month, the guests changed from road-weary, often cranky business travelers to happy singles and delighted families visiting loved ones in the area. I’d generally request to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day even after I had the seniority to have them off. A magical shimmer floated in the air those days and I wanted to share it with as many guests as possible.
More than you’ll ever know, I miss that stimulating feeling of expectation. I still enjoy the Christmas season. There are cookies to bake, parties to attend and all those Christmas cards I mail out. But while I decorate the tree, I don’t sing as many Christmas carols. Even though my life goes into overdrive this time of year, most of my activities are solitary – not part of an amazing team and not for such a large group of wonderful people.
My Advent has changed from something boisterous and exhilarating to a calmer, introspective time. Maybe that’s a good thing, though. Advent is a time of preparation, remembering His coming and yet longing for His return. It begs us to still, to hush, to quiet our souls so we can focus more deeply on the One whose birthday deeply transforms us and the world.
Jesus came quietly, slipping unnoticed into a little town. He arrived in the middle of the night, in the dark, but suddenly there was the Light among us. And this Light brought with Him hope. His newborn cry broke the silence that had lingered over the world for 400 years. And while most inhabitants of the world were asleep, the earth could not contain its joy. Angels appeared, the Christmas star illuminated the dark sky and I imagine even the animals in the stable knew something momentous had just happened.
The following day, most folks went back to the hustling of their lives. They wouldn’t know the beauty and magic of Christmas for many years to come – not until Christ’s death on the cross, if even then. The birth announcement was there that morning, but to catch it, you had to care enough to watch for it. Most didn’t, staying blissfully unaware of the miracle in their midst. The day’s joy was swallowed up instead by mundane activities. I suspect our lack of rejoicing exists to this day for much the same reason. When we hurry and rush, if we’re honest, we fail to rejoice.
Jesus came into the chaos and mess of life. In the midst of it all, He brought hope – the ability to reconcile with God. He wasn’t loud. He never appeared to be in a hurry, but that never stopped Him from entering in and saying, “Here I am. Emmanuel. God with You.”
We can’t pause life, though we’d like to try. But we can purposely pause in this season, to hush, to still, to advent. To take the time to be left breathless by the awe-inspiring work of God all around us – the endless treasures that come to us through Him. This is what the Advent season is all about: looking with anticipation toward the Christmas child. We only need ask our Father in heaven to clear space in our hearts so we stop, seek, care. Advent gives us liberty to implore God to help us reveal in the gift of the Christmas child coming to earth in humble glory and splendor.
The very best thing you can do with your life is build one with hope. So take some time to slow down, open your hands and your heart to the only one who can offer that hope. This God who came to us as a baby in a manger takes broken, hopeless hearts and gives you His. Not just during Christmas, but always.
May the infinite love of Jesus bring you hope, peace and joy during this season and throughout the coming year.