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I’ve never fully understood Advent.

I grew up in a church with low liturgy. We celebrated Christmas, and we began singing Christmas carols as soon as it turned December. I was puzzled by those who reminded me that the Christmas season hadn’t even started yet, just as I continue to be puzzled by those who insist that Christmastide extends into the New Year.

I’m starting to get it now.

2020 was rough. 2021 promised to be better, although some of us felt jaded enough to wonder if things could really get better. They didn’t. The polarization in society hasn’t eased. I read a news article today warning that the worst of the pandemic was still to come. Our rulers are telling us that we must adhere to secularism’s creed or be charged and jailed as heretics. Bad news abounds.

I’m starting to understand Advent.

Advent is a season of longing. It’s a time when we recognize the truth of Romans 8:22: “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” The world is not right. Since Genesis 3, it never has been. The headlines change in the newspaper, but the reality hasn’t. This world is sin-sick and cries out for redemption.

Our efforts to bring change always fall short. I once tried to detail my wife’s car as a surprise. As I worked on the dashboard, I accidentally smudged some wax on the driver’s side window. I worked to remove it, but the more I tried, the worse I made it. Our efforts to change the world are a lot like that: we may not have meant to mess it up, and our attempts to improve what’s wrong make things worse.

We need a Saviour.

I would never go so far as saying that everyone should mark Advent or even Christmas. I am saying that, this year, I feel the longing of Advent like never before. It seems right to enter into the longing of those who patiently awaited the first coming as they clung to so many of the promises sprinkled throughout Scripture, just as we long for the second coming of Christ. We don’t long only as a matter of belief. We long as a matter of desperation.

Here’s a prediction: 2022 will leave us longing. We’ll be disappointed with our political leaders. We won’t see eye to eye with friends and family on important issues. We’ll pick up the news and feel despair. Some of us will suffer major setbacks. God will also bless us with many good gifts to enjoy, but we’ll be left longing for more.

Advent reminds us that we have only one hope, and that is Jesus. The end of the pandemic, the election of a new leader, or the promotion we want will never give us what we’re looking for. We need the One who can not only satisfy our desires but set the world to what it should be.

Even as we long, we’re filled with hope. Jesus is coming. Our longing for his coming will make his arrival even sweeter. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.