We all know the drill.
It’s not “culturally acceptable” to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving happens. We all roll our eyes when the trees come out in department stores before summer ends. We make jokes about skipping other holidays.
While some of us wait with baited breath to press play on our Christmas playlists (minus that week or so in July which the world has deemed “okay” for Christmas music), we keep the decoration in the boxes…counting down until Thanksgiving – which we all love – passes so we can bring out that cheer that only Christmas decor can bring.
But this year is different.
Here in my neighborhood, many of us have spent the weekend getting the lights up. Sure, we’ll say it’s because there’s a pleasant snap of weather… but those of us who started up yesterday weren’t even the first, not on my street at all. I’ve seen friends asking others on Facebook for songs to add to their Christmas playlists, tired of waiting for the “appropriate” time to push play. In all these things… no one is rolling their eyes. Not this year. Not in 2020. Why?
Sure. It’s been a rough one. Some of us are all out grieving the loss of loved ones from COVID. Some of us are struggling to put food on the table, and wondering how to spread Christmas cheer without breaking the bank this year. Some are struggling with a host of issues starting with loneliness and escalating to full-blown depression that has encapsulated this socially-distant lifestyle we’re adapting to.
But I think it’s deeper than that. I think that maybe, just maybe, this year has the potential to bring us closer to the true meaning of Christmas than ever before.
Here’s the Thing…
I’ve always loved the season of Advent. The cheeriness. The festive celebrations. The excitement of great food and friends and fellowship. I think that’s true for many of us.
But – how far is that from the actual event we celebrate each year… the first advent… the waiting – over centuries – of God’s chosen people for his promised Messiah. The slavery. The wandering in the desert. The captivity. The persecution. And yet – through it all – there remained a hope…small as a burning candle – for the promise of the one who was to come, the one who has now come that we celebrate with great hope each year.
In our “regular” routine, it’s easy to fill the schedule with big gifts, big trips, giant celebrations, and more… but in all of these (while special for sure), have we lost our ability to yearn for our Savior, have we deprived our opportunity to hope for what is yet to come?
To be clear: I am in no way downing Christmas celebrations, or making light of the hurt that feels so prevalent this year.
I AM however, saying that just maybe we have the opportunity to experience what the Psalmist shared in Psalm 84:2 when he wrote:
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Friends, I think that we – and I am not limiting this to believers – are yearning for something more in a way that we have never experienced before. I believe that we and the world surrounding us are craving hope like never before.
Those of us who trust in the Lord for salvation, we may be able to identify the object of our yearning. But guys – each and every person on this planet was created by a loving God, our souls were made to yearn for him.
His promise to draw near to us if we draw near to him hangs like a fruit out there for the taking for anyone who chooses it. He’s drawing near to this world of ours and the people in it – this world filled with hurt and despair that feels so tangible this year – and this year we have the opportunity to see it like – maybe – we haven’t been able to in the past.
The Implication of This
For some of us that means that we may just be better primed than ever before to think about the world that Jesus was born into two thousand years ago. The yearning with expectation that his people were not forgotten, that their savior was near. The hope – that while difficult to grasp at times – was never extinguished.
It means we can share that hope with others who may – for the first time ever – be more open to it than ever before.
It means that we can care for others in new ways this year, looking for ways to connect that go beyond and below the superficial.
And the best part – maybe – is that on Christmas morning this year, we can celebrate the birth of our Savior into a dark and dreary world in a way that feels more real, and more significant, than perhaps we’ve been able to do in the past.
Put up the lights early. Rip out that Christmas music. Bake all the cookies. But look for the needs that surround you, look for the world that is longing for a hope that they may not be able to identify and figure out how you can help bridge the gap.
2020 feels different because it IS different. 2020 is hard. 2020 represents loss and hurt and division like other years in our lifetimes have not. But maybe this is the Advent our hearts have been craving all along.
Hope has not been extinguished, friends.