Every year at Christmas, I find myself deeply longing to feel some kind of Christmas Spirit. I dig out the Advent Calendars and books. I read the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus. Usually I make it to about day 5 before realizing that the Spirit of Christmas is something lost on me. Sure it's Jesus' birthday, I get that. But most December days don't feel any different than any other day of the year. I generally beat myself up over this and chalk it up to being a bad Christian. Well, this year - I've made it to day 8 of Advent and I have no intention of stopping. God has shown up in a very unique way for me this year.
Advent. (Noun) the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.
The past three years have held more despair and hopelessness then I ever thought I would face. After the adoption of our last child, I've been stretched in ways I never imagined - as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, as a Daughter of Christ. Not one aspect of my life has gone untouched from our "new normal". Over the past year, I have grown increasingly .... well .... hopeless. I have doubted God's ability to redeem the hard and broken. Scratch that - I have not doubted his ability to do so, I have doubted that He will do so. In adoption there are many wounds, much betrayal, hurts that run deep, anger, resentment and frustrations. And I'm not just talking about the child. In the words of Dan Allender, "Betrayal begets betrayal". Or more fittingly, hurt begets hurt. In other words - a vicious cycle full of sorrow and bitterness can quickly become the norm when parenting a child that has been taken from Plan A.
Plan A? You won't ever hear me say the words that God planned for my adopted children to be mine. At least not in the sense that those words at face value would mean. Adoption was never plan A. Our children who have come to us from another mother should not be with me. They just shouldn't. Their world's were broken. And in typical God fashion, He is redeeming the brokenness through adoption. But redemption comes with a cost. It comes with pain, loss, sorrow and much effort.
What does any of this have to do with Advent?
This year, the book I picked up in my effort to "get it right" was, Good News of Great Joy - Daily Readings for Advent, by John Piper. It has been like water to my dry soul the past 8 days.
For starters, on Day 1 - I was challenged to prepare. Piper writes, "...engage in sober self-examination. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Psalm 139:23-24) Let every heart prepare him room....by cleaning house." He goes on to write, "Is not my word like fire, says the Lord! (Jeremiah 23:29) Gather 'round the fire this Advent season. ..... It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights." I LOVE that picture!
(By the way, I'm writing outside by the fire at this very moment. I'm freezing. Oh, but the fire....)
In all my years of going through Advent readings and candle lighting's, I don't recall a year that the single word - Prepare - has actually hit home for me. Prepare for what? I'm not an Israelite. He already came. Am I supposed to be preparing for his second coming? What do I, as a 21st Century Christian, prepare for during the month of December?
A few days later, I was hit with this fantastic truth: "Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart. And to that end, he rules the whole world."
In a season of feeling such failure and hopelessness - these words held much healing.
I could write you tidbits from each day that have been especially meaningful - but you should just download the (FREE) book for yourself.
You're probably wondering how these two worlds collide - the world of our growing family and the hardships that have come over the past three years and Christmas.
Allow me to tie it up with a pretty red bow.
Every year, the day after Thanksgiving comes and I am determined to "get it" this Advent season. I want to really get it! You know....Jesus is the reason for the season and all that jazz. But every year, my heart goes basically unchanged. Glittery things, yummy foods, party and presents all take over. Oh forgive me, Lord. This year, however, I entered December broken. Not just because of the hardships we face with a child, but because of many areas...remember all those areas that have not gone untouched? Yeah. Them. In this particularly hard season, I chose on December 1 to prepare him room. It's hard to prepare room for someone when you don't really think they will show up - but my hearts desire is for Him to show up, so I made the bed and vacuumed the floor. And guess what? He showed up.
In the past week, I have had a couple of moments with our daughter that I have longed for since the day she came into my care. Hard moments, but needed and good moments. And then it hit me. God came down to this very broken world....to hers and my very broken world... to offer hope. Most years during Christmas, I haven't let myself reach broken. The problem with this is that Jesus didn't come to redeem the glitter and the gifts. He came to redeem the broken. He came to give us peace, and hope, and joy everlasting. But to see the areas of our heart that need such a savior doesn't feel good. And I want to feel good during December. So I'll just say the right words, go to the appropriate amount of church events and call it good. How backwards. I shudder to think that had I not prepared the way, this year would have passed like any other. And on December 26, I would feel just as lost and hopeless. But in my state of longing for redemption, of longing for a Savior....He showed me today in such a unique way that he indeed is redeeming all that I am walking through. It's what he came for. It's what he does.
He offers redemption. He offers hope. He offers peace. He offers joy. To the willing heart, he IS Advent....the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.
So this Christmas season I ask you - what are the broken and hopeless areas of your life? Where have you given up? Where do you NOT see his hand? Where are you waiting for the Messiah to come? Where do you need peace? Go there. Because these are the moments that Jesus came to redeem. I urge you, prepare Him the way!