Last Sunday, we began Advent. Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The word means coming, as we celebrate the coming of Jesus and the second of Jesus. Advent is about how Jesus has come and is coming.
When you come to church in Advent, you expect to hear stories about things like angels, shepherds, stars, mangers, and the like. But this Advent we’re taking a different approach. Instead of focusing on the different parts of the Christmas story, we’ll be reading stories of people in hard or impossible situations being met by Jesus.
The overwhelming message of Christmas is that God is with us. As we read in Matthew 1, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).”
While the promise of God with us is comforting and encouraging, sometimes we go through seasons where we wonder if this is really true. We go through storms in life, or live in the darkness of valleys, or walk through spiritual deserts and wonder if God is really with us. For many people, Christmas can be one of those times of year that causes us to wonder about God being with us because Christmas brings up pain. We feel the grief of loss, the disappointment of family, or the regret of choices. For Advent this year, we’re going to be walking right into the middle of those places. After all, it is in those places we especially need a Savior.
Last week, we talked about storms and how Jesus is with us in the midst of storms. This coming Sunday, we’ll talk about valleys. It’s not just on the mountaintops that God is with us, but also in the valleys. When you’re in the valley, it’s hard sometimes to see how God is with you. The great C. S. Lewis described the hopeless of valley very well in his book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with the phrase it’s “always winter but never Christmas.” There are times in life when it’s dark and gloomy with little hope of things changing.
Probably you are like me and don’t really like to focus in on things like this. Yet, these darker times of life are why we need Advent. Jesus didn’t come to save perfect people who have their lives together and have no pain. He came to save us. All of us. Even those of us who hurt and struggle and wish things are different. This is the hope of Advent. That Jesus has come to save me. He’s come to save you. No matter if our life is easy or hard the Immanuel is God with you.
I can’t wait to see you on Sunday!