As a child, I failed to comprehend the season of Advent. I got Lent. Lent is focused and determined; it strips us from the trappings of the temporal as we fix our eyes and desires on Jesus. Ah, but fickle Advent … was I supposed to be happy or sad? Cheerful or penitent? These emotions swirled like visions of Christmas gumdrops in my young mind, and during a season that should be robust with meaning, I was filled with confusion.
Many of us wrestle with the paradoxical nature of Advent, a season so pregnant with expectation that it makes our hearts ache and grasp for something, someone greater than ourselves. We face the ugly reality of sin in our world, in our very hearts, and we experience great sorrow. Something is lost within us. We are shipwrecked and our souls cry out for home.
But our journey doesn’t end here. The title of the sermon series for Advent has been “Repent and Rejoice,” two seemingly clashing actions. Here is where we face the crux of the Advent pilgrimage toward Jesus’ birth, even the heart of the entire gospel story.
Facing our brokenness—the hefty work of repentance —is impossible without the hope of a savior. Without that hope we remain shipwrecked and lost. Someone has to find and mend our torn sails, our wounded hearts. Through the mystery of the Incarnation, Jesus came to find and save us in this tragic human state and he continually beckons us home to him.
Christ’s presence on earth, his Immanuel, and ultimately his death and resurrection are the reasons we rejoice. This is the hope found in Zephaniah 3, one of the readings from this past Sunday. Zephaniah knew what—and who—was coming—and who—and what it meant for all people. This was Mary’s hope when she said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
The hope of the Savior is ultimately why we can rejoice in the midst of a penitent season such as Advent. With Christ’s hope, we are even able to rejoice as we grunt through hard actions like repentance, brokenness, and humility, as Stewart told us in his sermon about John the Baptist’s harsh yet loving words on Sunday.
Diving into Advent means enacting repentance and rejoicing year after year, placing ourselves into a familiar story, as Meghan shared in her post last week. But the story isn’t stale in its familiarity. Each year it will—if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us—become wildly alive as we discover our ever-present need for a savior and God’s saving presence among us, 2,000 years ago and always.
How have you seen Christ in your brokenness, or the brokenness of the world, this Advent? How has that called you to rejoice?
Story by Bonnie McMaken