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You’ve probably heard it many times now. It is going to be a different Christmas this year with all the restrictions and protocols. Many things we look forward to in the lead up to that big day aren’t happening or look very different. We may be experiencing all kinds of different emotions about celebrating Christmas this year.

Yet, I believe that this year offers us a unique opportunity to experience Advent in a new way.
Advent can be a powerful experience because it offers light in the midst of darkness, hope in the midst of despair, freedom in the midst of captivity, and peace in the midst of war and conflict, both internal and external. Advent is a time where we invite God into whatever emotional and spiritual place, we find ourselves and in doing so experience a deeper meaning of Advent.

We sometimes think that we are only acceptable to pray “Come Lord Jesus” when we are all “put together” and looking nice. We want to clean up the Christmas story also. We don’t want to really examine the messiness of God coming into the unusual relationship of Mary and Joseph. Mary becoming pregnant when not fully wed? Joseph accepting Mary despite her being pregnant. We want to clean up the stable and take away the sounds and smells around Jesus giving birth in a barn.

And we want to do the same thing to our own lives. We don’t bring who we truly are, with our tears, our brokenness, our sins, and the messiness of our own lives to God who longs for us to invite him into those places. The very places where he can come with his unconditional love and healing.

To change this so that we know what we are inviting Jesus into, we begin by taking the time to listen to what are souls are telling us.

We can ask ourselves questions like:

  • Are we walking in “darkness” of some kind?
  • Does it seem like we are in a desert?
  • Have we done something we are not proud of?
  • Have we lost touch with who we really want to be?
  • What feels like it is missing in my life?
  • What name can I give the “restlessness” in my heart?
  • What is the emptiness I keep trying to “feed” with food, with excitement, with Social Media and Netflix, or with busyness?
  • What is the sinful, unloving, self-centered pattern for which I haven’t asked for forgiveness or healing
  • Where do I need a peace that passes all understanding?

As we recognize who we really are, we take of the masks we sometimes wear, and come to Jesus recognizing our need for him. It is in this quiet space that we can become transparent and real before God in ways that we cannot before others. And it is into these places that we invite God to come with his unconditional love and healing.

As we begin our Advent season this way, our hearts are ready and open to experience all that God desires to give us this season. Advent is about letting God’s will be done in our hearts and in our everyday lives.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us.
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Born a people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine all eternal Spirit,
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.