When I was a kid, families signed up each week of December to light the Advent candle and read a special passage of scripture in front of the church. During week one, the scriptures spoke of the hope of the coming Messiah. Week two was about preparing for the King. Joy was the focus of week three while week four was about loving our Savior. As I reminisced, I got curious about the meaning of the word advent and decided to look it up. According to The Oxford Dictionary, advent means “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event”. In the context of Christmas and waiting on the coming Messiah, that meaning makes a lot of sense. But what about all of the advents we experience in our own everyday lives?
Like when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the advent of adulthood. I just knew that turning 18 was going to be the best time of my life. I would have no worries, nobody telling me what to do. Then the advent of marriage; such a magical time in life that promised such hope. Or the advent of my first real job. I was ready to take on the world and knew I could conquer anything. I remember the advent of our first child. We were nervous, excited and terrified we would break the little guy. By the advent of the second one we knew we wouldn’t break him, but we were terrified all over again. All of these advents were special times in my life. Hope, preparation, joy, and love were all easy to come by as I prepared for those advent seasons. When the advents were favorable, it was easy to anticipate the new season of advent.
But what happens when the advent isn’t favorable or a once hopeful advent turns sour? What happens when we face the advent of depression, loss, fear, or addiction? What happens when the advent means deep emotional pain, suffering, grief, and mental anguish? What happens when we face the advent of cancer, death, job loss, and divorce? These advents are dark, scary, debilitating, and consuming. They sneak in and destroy, often leaving us hopeless and defeated. Our bodies get weary and our spirits are often broken. These aren’t the advents that we like to think about, but more often than not, they are the advents that end up staring us right in the face.
So what do we do when these advents come? We find hope. Hope in God. Hope in the people around us. Hope in the future. We prepare. Prepare spiritually. Prepare mentally and emotionally. Prepare safe places where we can be vulnerable and open. We embrace joy. Joy in our faith. Joy in the special moments of the day. Joy in the people who surround us. And we love. Love God. Love our family and friends. Love this life with every ounce of energy we can muster. And when we get through to the other side, we do it all over again and again and again. The advents of life are coming whether we want them to or not. Sometimes they will be good but often they will rock us to the core. Just as we anticipate and celebrate Jesus’ birth during this Advent season, we can also anticipate and celebrate the advents of life that are coming our way. Whether good or bad, easy or hard, safe or scary, we already have a guide that we can follow. No matter what advent is looming in the distance, we already have the prescription. Hope. Preparation. Joy. And Love.