I sauntered into church today on this chilly, snowy morning to join with my church community in celebrating the third Sunday of Advent. Also called Gaudete Sunday, it is the Sunday of Joy (Gaudete means, “Rejoice” in Latin). We are glad because Christmas in near!
Advent is a season of preparing for Christ’s birth, and of longing for His ultimate return when all things will be made new. I long for more time in meaningful relationships, for all the wrong in the world to be made right…and for the not-so-friendly neighborhood woodpecker to stop drilling holes through our siding!
Most years, we make plans to simplify life, to slow down to help us remember that at our core we are His children. And we need daily reminders that we were made to long for Him.
Sadly, this December, I didn’t have to purpose to slow down or make myself stop working. All my children and I got sick, terribly sick. I’m typically the kind of person who pushes through colds and just keeps going. Well, not this time. We caught a terrible virus that halted normal, daily activities. For a few days, it seemed a feat just to get all the dirty dishes into the sink. It took us all down— except my sweet husband. And, well, he spent many hours sacrificing his down time to serve and love us through it.
It seems easier to connect to the longing in our hearts when we come face to face with a physical or emotional challenge. When I’m physically not well and cannot seem to muster up enough strength on my own, my fragility is a light in the darkness revealing my need for Him.
I know for some of you, a weeklong sickness is nothing compared to what you are living through. I’m aware of those who are struggling with cancer and hope to live another year. Or those who are grieving the loss of a child or spouse and are keenly aware of the deep, heart-wrenching sadness they feel daily. Much of our longing will never be fulfilled on this earth. And yet, Jesus has come to bring us joy in the midst of pain and sadness. Our struggle itself can be the carrier of joy, albeit joy in disguise.
In the midst of my own pain, I’ve neglected to do some of the new family practices I had had in mind for this year.
Nevertheless, after a handful of Advent devotionals (Glenn has powered through in doing this with the kids sans me), a few colored Jesse tree ornaments, and a reading of a St. Nicholas book, I hope to dive in a bit more in the upcoming week. I hope to read many more picture books with kids, sit by several crackling fires, listen to Advent music, and sip a hot drink. Hopefully not just hot water and lemon!
Speaking of music, I can’t sign off without giving a couple ideas of what you might listen to this season:
Advent Music Playlist from Spotify (from our friends at www.keepingadvent.com)
Mid-Winter Carols by Joel Clarkson