December 3, 2019
"We were saved with this hope ahead of us. Now hope means we are waiting for something we do not have. How can a man hope for something he already has?" Romans 8:24 (NLV)
The drizzles streaming down my cheeks didn't fit with the worship spilling from my lips on that Christmas Eve long ago. It was the season of gladness, but my 17-year-old soul swelled with an unexpected sadness.
Juxtaposed against the merriment of the season and the thrill of my Savior's birth, my tears felt awkward and out of place, like an ugly Christmas sweater at an elegant wedding party.
My friend flashed me a furtive glance and dug in her purse for a tissue, while I stared at my shoes and wondered what was wrong with me. Why is my heart aching when I have so many reasons to rejoice? Why am I longing for more when Jesus has already given me His all?
I may not have understood it then, but now I know that my tears weren't the result of a teenage moodswing or proof of an ungrateful heart. They were merely an expression of an Advent ache - an expectant waiting for Jesus' return.
We don't talk about it much when we trim the tree and hang the stockings, but just as surely as Christmas shines with joy, it also swells with unmet longing.
And sometimes when we slow our feet and still our souls, we discover a nagging dissatisfaction that lingers just beneath the sheen of the season, an awkward ache, a yuletide yearning.
It often comes when we least expect it and stays when we wish it would leave. It doesn't hinge on feelings or sway with circumstances. I've felt it when my family's been gathered together in laughter and when we've been splintered apart by grief - when joy has come like a friend and when doubt has lurked like a thief. I've felt it when our finances are steady and when our bank accounts are drained, when my faith is strong and flourishing and when my hope is weak and strained.
Maybe you've felt it, too - this awkward Advent ache? Maybe it's left you feeling worried and confused like 17-year-old me on that Christmas Eve long ago.
If so, may I encourage you with a simple truth I've been learning? The Advent ache isn't intended to shatter our hope but to shift it.
The longing that lies within us is meant to point us to the promise that stretches ahead of us.
The Apostle Paul says it like this in Romans 8:22-25:
"We know that everything on the earth cries out with pain the same as a woman giving birth to a child. We also cry inside ourselves, even we who have received the Holy Spirit ... We were saved with this hope ahead of us. Now hope means we are waiting for something we do not have. How can a man hope for something he already has? But if we hope for something we do not yet see, we must learn how to wait for it."
Christmas is a season of waiting. We wait in lines, and we wait to open gifts. We wait for visits from loved ones, and we wait to complete our lists. And that Advent ache reminds us that our souls are waiting, too.
A baby in a manger is where the story begins, but thanks be to God, that's not where our celebration ends. The Christmas story is just a prelude to Christ's impending glory.
Jesus arrived on earth with wrinkled skin and a newborn squeal, but He'll return again as conquering King with a mighty trumpet peal. (1 Corinthians 15:52) And on that day when He comes back to restore the world and make things right, our waiting will turn to worship, and our hope will become sight.
So, next time that yuletide yearning shows up like an awkward guest, we don't need to let it steal our joy; we can simply let it stir our hope. Because God's promises are clear - one day, our Advent ache will turn into eternal awe. Until then, we can let it remind us that the best is yet to come.
Dear Jesus, sometimes I'm discouraged by the longing in my heart. Would You use Your Word to turn my awkward ache into eager anticipation? And help me to stand firm in hope until I see You face to face. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 1:16-18, "From Him Who has so much we have all received loving-favor, one loving-favor after another. The Law was given through Moses, but loving-favor and truth came through Jesus Christ. The much-loved Son is beside the Father. No man has ever seen God. But Christ has made God known to us." (NLV)
1 Peter 1:13, "Get your minds ready for good use. Keep awake. Set your hope now and forever on the loving-favor to be given you when Jesus Christ comes again." (NLV)
Have our daily devotions encouraged you? In a world gone so wrong, we know only God's Word can keep your mind and heart right. As we help you, will you prayerfully consider helping us by giving to Proverbs 31 Ministries? When you do, we can reach even more women who need God's Word. Now through December 6, your donation will be doubled!
For more encouragement and a chance to enter a Christmas giveaway, visit Alicia Bruxvoort at her blog today.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How can you turn your longings today into hope for tomorrow? Memorize a Scripture promise this Christmas season that reminds you of Christ's return, and share with us which promise you picked in the comments!
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