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Advent as Grieving

by | Dec 20, 2015 | Blog, Redemption, Worship

We live in a broken world that desperately needed Jesus’ First Advent. As those who have sinned against God, we needed Jesus to come to live a perfect life and die a sacrificial death for us. We needed Jesus to conquer death for us by his resurrection so that we could know life eternal. We needed Jesus’ First Advent.

We also live in a world that needs his Second Advent. All has not yet been restored as it will be in his Second Advent. There is still sin and sickness, wrong and sadness, grief and loss. We need our King to return to make all things new.

The Season of Advent reminds us that we are in a season of waiting. Waiting for Jesus to finish with his Second Advent, the mission of peace that began with his First.

But, like a child finding that present with our name on it and longing to unwrap it to see if the gift is what we are hoping for, we wait.

One of my favorite Christmas poems/carols was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was written during a time when the grief of the not yet seemed to outweigh the joy of the already. His life was more like what C.S. Lewis described as “Always Winter and never Christmas.”

His wife died in a horrible accident. While working with hot wax, her dress caught fire. While her dress burned, he tried to extinguish the fire with his hands. Longfellow’s arms, chest and face were burned trying to save her, but she burned to death.

The first Christmas after her death, Longfellow wrote in his journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays. I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.”

Longfellow’s journal entry for December 25th, 1862, reads: “‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

During the Civil War, his son was shot fighting for the Union Army. The bullet entered at his shoulder and nicked his spine. He was miraculously kept from paralysis.

As Longfellow sat next to his son’s hospital bed on Christmas Day, he penned these words.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!

Indeed, God is not dead nor does he sleep. The Season of Advent reminds us that Jesus came once as a Humble Servant who would die on a Cross for our sins. He rose again and will one day return as The Conquering King to bring peace on earth finally and fully so that all who hope in Him might enjoy His glory.

That is the hope for which we wait at Advent.

That is the hope that will be realized at his Return.

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