A few years ago I wrote an Advent devotional entitled “Draw Near.” At the time I wrote it, it was one of those periods where it was “easier” than others to draw near to God. He felt close, he felt present. Life was smooth – if there’s such a thing – and we cruised toward Christmas with excitement and anticipation. The words on the page felt alive because they were easy in a way. Drawing near to God felt natural.
The truths in that little devotional are no less true today, no less relevant… and yet… instead of running full speed toward the excitement that the season brings, and the miraculous sending of our Savior, born in a tiny manger in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago… today we’re crawling forward.
The season is busy. The hurts from those that are meant to be close are deep. Health and the near loss of my father from C-VID this year took a serious toll – one that we’re still feeling as we deal with the remaining questions that linger after a 2 month ICU stay that seemed to have brought more scars than healing. Family and friends have lost loved ones… some suddenly… right as the Advent season began. Our kids are growing and facing “bigger” challenges that we wish we could fix with band-aids… but sometimes life needs more than that. Sometimes… sometimes it’s just hard to breathe.
While the season of being locked down and far from those around us seems to have ended… it seems that other questions, feelings of being “on the outside,” health concerns, and things far deeper, have become more commonplace – or at least closer to the surface – than in years past. These are things I’m sure you’re feeling to some extent, whether yourself, or for those around you, as well.
When I write that “we” are crawling forward… I do mean as a family. But, I also mean it as a collective “we.” The theme of rawness has come up in several conversations. Friends are tired. There are cautious attempts to restart and reset. Conversations surrounding a tiredness that is much deeper than a night of sleep can fix are common.
We. Are. Crawling.
Is Adoration Possible in These Seasons?
And yet… adoration awaits. It lurks. It pokes its head up at unexpected moments where the gravity of this type of love conquers everything our emotions and situations might be throwing at us. It fills in hurts that are so deep they feel like they might be bottomless. It supports questions that we may never see answers to on this side of Heaven, whether it provides any answers to the soul felt “whys” we sometimes feel that we’re shouting at the sky.
The thing with life – just like the idea of crawling itself – is that we’re moving forward. We’re going toward something. It might feel like we’re stuck and the world is spinning around us, but the sun still brings new days, the moon still comes to life at night, and each passing cycle brings us closer to something, which, during this season… the season of waiting and the season of hope… is Christmas.
What do we do with that?
Do we focus on what feels empty? On what’s raw?
Or… do we choose hope? Even if it feels impossible?
I use the word choose intentionally. How we move forward during this season ultimately falls on us. We can begrudge it all, letting the hurt bubble over… or… we can take a literal leap of faith, deciding the promises in God’s scripture that he will draw near to us when we draw near to him… and that his heart is a heart of love, tenderness, and healing.
If we choose the latter, whether or not that first step feels impossible or heavy, those qualities? They can become a part of our stories. They can saturate the hard. They can bring us to the place where adoration is possible.
It might not be the cheerful, laughter-filled, light-as-a-feather holiday of Christmas past, but, it might be something more real. It might be an opportunity to focus on nothing else but that baby in a manger, born to point us to our father in Heaven, to show us the heart of God, and to provide the salvation and hope we’d be completely lost without.
That manger wasn’t filled with lights, and colors, and comfort. It was dark, smelly, and set in a landscape where life was barren and hard. There were questions. Hope felt far.
When hope feels far here… just maybe… we’re better positioned to feel the promise of that night… the night that changed everything.
Can You Choose it?
Friend, I’m not sure what’s heavy in your life today. I don’t know who you’re missing, what you’re longing for, or what feels so big and broken that hopelessness has set in… but, I know there’s love here.
As we sat with our kids last night at dinner and lit our last of the 4 waiting advent candles, we went through John 3:16. Whether you’ve grown up in a church or not, I’m willing to wager you’re familiar with it… For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have life everlasting.
They aren’t just words. We celebrate the Christmas season because the story is true and its meaning is deeper than any cheerful party or even the best cookie in the world could represent. Christmas is filled with hope because of the love, deeper love than we could ever imagine, it represents.
This is how we come to a place of adoration. We dwell on that love. We get lost in thankfulness for the truth of it all. And we let ourselves linger for a bit.
When the world feels heavy, and the lostness of it all feels a burden too big to carry, we grab a hold of love. We choose hope.
I pray your Christmas is filled with meaning and that you can feel God’s presence in your story this year. The hope he offers is big… can you simply adore him?