I grew up in a decidely small, non-liturgical church in a small town where the concept was a little foreign. But when I went to college and started going to a Baptist church that observed Advent, I fell in love with the concept. The idea of marking the days until Christmas and preparing ourselves for Christ to be born in our hearts anew—well, my heart connected with it.
This Sunday, we lit the first candle of Advent at my church, the candle that symbolizes hope. And this year, I found myself pondering the concept, hungering for hope. As that candle flamed to life in the service, I thought about how Jesus brought hope to a world trapped in darkness. In my mind, I pictured the dark nights at my parents’ house. They live in the country, and when I go home to visit, I’m always amazed by the darkness of the dark. In the city, there are always street lights and city lights that make the dark seem not quite as scary, but in the country, the night skies can seem inky and overwhelming, and the darkness can easily overtake you.
But one flaming candle in that darkness can make all the difference.
And that’s what Jesus did in a dark world. It’s what Jesus did in my dark heart.
This Christmas, I’ve found myself returning to the wonder of the Christmas story. My heart hungered for it even before Thanksgiving. I thought I’d find the wonder and hope in the Christmas lights and joyous decorations, but it hasn’t come there. I thought I’d find it in quiet nights in a warm house lit by the light of the Christmas tree, but it hasn’t been there, either.
I’ve found it at the manger, in the prophecy of His coming, in the Story that is all our stories. I pray that my heart continues to long for that wonder and hope this season as I dig deeper into the Advent and pray for the hope only He can give.
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.” —Isaiah 9:6-7a
“Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is the Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.” —Luke 2:10-11