I just want to be free of it, is what I keep thinking to myself.
Free of the weight of this baggage of self I carry around all through my days. It's Advent for crying out loud and I love my dark early mornings with the cold and my coffee and the Word both sharp and lovely, but these last few days as the light of dawn breaks through the windows, my own heart seems to slide into its own kind of darkness. I weary of the struggle with my emotions and the battle with my attitude.
I'm doing the work of Advent, the hint of an impatient thought showed its underbelly today as I battled the thoughts that plagued me. I'm paring back and meditating and slowing down and trying to open my heart to the wonder that God could speak into it. I wish that meant less struggle with personal, ugly darkness.
So here, apparently is my wish for a successful Christmas Season. A tranquil heart. Unburdened by want or need or any sort of pining. Simply content. Happily pouring out and into everyone around me. In short, it seems I ought to become a Buddhist. Just get rid of all that desire, and find the way to inner peace through annihilation and emptiness.
This is where the heart of Advent stepped into my world again today. Our Christmas card this year reads Peace on Earth. Celebrating Emmanuel in China. When we took the picture for the card there was anything but Peace on that part of the Earth. But we like to think of it as a hope for the future peace that will only come when our Savior returns. In that picture taking moment, and in most moments of our days, we are waiting with hopeful longing for that peace.
And in the meantime, we are celebrating the fact that Emmanuel, God with us, is ever true way over here in China. And that is what I need to know and walk in more than ever these days. The gift of the first Advent was the arrival of God putting on flesh, our very flesh, so that he could be with us. And not just with us to hang out, but to understand, to empathize, to relate in the most humbling and of ways. Beyond even that though, the first Advent meant God put on flesh so that he could die in the flesh and make God with us a forever possibility. Or rather, us with God an eternal reality.
As I walked through my day, talking with the Lord in my head, pouring out my heart and my battles, my confessions and my questions, my thanks and my worship, I was struck by how precious it is that He walks with me. My struggle with sin doesn't stop because of Advent or any other special time with the Lord. But this special time of reflecting and thinking upon His Birth and His breaking into our world makes me more keenly aware of my need and His meeting of it. For what are we without God? Phantoms, wraiths, walking souls with insatiable desires that go unmet and grow greedy with the consumption of what does not satisfy. But with God? God with us? We are like springs of living water, whose well will never run dry.
A true celebration of Advent seems impossible sometimes. It is too plagued by real life and real people. Even when you do all you think you can do (and even the things the books tell you to do) to put yourself in the position to really value and experience the true meaning of this beautiful, weighty, all-important holiday season, the truth is that any Advent is impossible from our side of things. Real Advent is all about God being with us. It's the central message of the gospel truth all over again. You can't get to him on your own merit.
The Possible thing about Advent from our end is worship. God is with us, and plagued by the darkness of the world and our own hearts, we cling to His Light all the more. The shepherds came humbly, the magi came adoring, we come thankful, in awe, needy and leaning in close to the God and Savior who is no distant idea or statement of Four Truths or cold, lifeless statue with a fat belly. He is Spirit, who put on flesh. He has a name and he knows each of ours.
If it feels impossible to get yourself all cleaned up and heart-ready for the celebration of the first Advent, you are just about right. With man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.