Tomorrow is the beginning of Advent. Most Christian churches observe this as a season of spiritual preparation for both the celebration of Christ’s birth and His future return to earth.
As I pore over advent readings and unpack my family’s nativity set, my weary heart prays for God to breathe fresh passion into me this Advent season. Holiday joy seems painfully dissonant with the hard edges of 2021 life.
A line from the Christmas carol “O Holy Night” keeps playing in my head: “A weary world rejoices.” That’s how this Advent season feels. It’s been a wearying few years for us: pandemic, isolation, anxiety, natural calamities, economic uncertainty, politics infecting everything.
This world weariness corresponds to the less-than-ideal circumstances into which Jesus was born more than 2000 years ago. Scripture details that since the fall of Adam and Eve in Eden, the Jewish people had been awaiting their Messiah, their promised Savior King.
They’d experienced slavery, famine, and war; forty years of desert wandering; generations of anxiety and uncertainty as they waited. When would their King arrive, bringing light to their weary dark world?
I understand that yearning. Do you?
Advent 2021 arrives. The story of the baby in Bethlehem might be so familiar that you’ve lost the awe you once had. Familiarity can breed apathy.
For what and how shall we pray this Advent season? We’ve been exploring this prayer theme for several weeks in this space.
I like how Canadian author Sarah Bessey writes about this: “Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we grieve our losses. We have to see that something is broken and there is a reason for why we need hope to begin with.
Advent matters, because it’s our way of keeping our eyes, our hearts and our arms wide open even in the midst of grief and longing. The weary world is still waiting in so many ways, in so many hearts, in so many places, for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come. Advent is for the ones who know longing.”
“So we light candles and read Scripture, reminding ourselves as believers that God’s love, peace and hope is real and it’s breaking among us still,” said Bessey.
We remember the prophet Isaiah’s call in the wilderness long ago: “Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, have courage! Take heart! God is here, right now, on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs” (Isaiah 35:3-4).
Advent reminds us that God seeks us out where we are right now, “not where we should be by our own or anyone else’s estimation,” says Bessey.
“God seeks us out when we are in exile and when we are suffering, when we are callous and cowardly, when we are more concerned with common sense than faithfulness, when we are fearful and arrogant, when we are lost and broken, when we are sad and alone, when we are traumatized and wondering when the light will start to win, when we feel forgotten and bored and insignificant and tired, when we are wounded and when are the ones who are wounding. Oh yes, even in these times, God is seeking us out.”
So what then shall we pray as we light Advent candles in the darkness together?
Pray that God will rekindle in us the assurance and wonder of “God with us – then, now and in the future to come.”
Give thanks that it is the reign of God in all its fullness that we await. We wait for the promised renewing of heaven and earth and final fulfillment of God’s healing, peace and justice.
The birth of Jesus began the faith journey. We look ahead to Jesus’ second and final coming.
Pray that God helps us to embrace the ache of Advent. Meditate Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Claim His relief, rest and refreshment for our souls.
May we encounter the incarnate Christ in unexpected places and situations. May He show us new ways to set something right or relieve suffering around us.
May He enable us to join His work in healing each other’s loneliness, addressing injustices and mending our divisions with courage and grace. Help us to invest in something weightier than our shopping lists.
On the night of Jesus’ birth, He brought with Him, as the song “O Holy Night” says, “a thrill of hope” (and the weary world rejoices). The trouble we experience today is real. But the hope we find only in Jesus Christ is also real. And, unlike the things of this world, it’s eternal. Weary world, rejoice!
Linda Cagnetti was a professional journalist with daily newspapers for 35 years, primarily with Gannett Newspapers (incl., their Cincinnati Enquirer and Florida Today publications). Linda attends Grace Community Church in Montrose. She and her husband Frank have one adult son, and parent a fourteen- year-old grandson.