Advent: The Gift of Longing for Home

I grew up with an annual Advent calendar from the grocery store – maybe you had one too, the waxy chocolate inside each door was pressed into the mold of a bell or stocking and the final day would be Santa. My Mom had some other Advent activities around the house, and the church I grew up in used an Advent Wreath with candles for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. We had many traditions that kept our family full of expectation for the season each year – one of my core memories is that we would always get a fresh Christmas tree on my dad’s birthday in the first week of December. I’m thankful that I had so many points of reflection and reality around Christmas growing up. These days Christmas has devolved into an annual pursuit of the perfect gift, a burden of creating magical moments, a time to hide the pain of loss or fear of the future. Even the humble Advent calendar has been redefined, a simple treat of a piece of chocolate every day is not enough. Advent calendars have been classified for adults now: you can buy one for beauty products or tea, pick one according to your hobbies or skills. I read the other day that there is a 10.3-million-dollar Advent calendar that includes lavish trips, one-of-a-kind art pieces and a purse embellished with gold and diamonds. It seems we’ve lost the plot – we forgot what Advent means. The word means arrival or coming – not arrived. That’s what is so special about the Advent season in a community of church: it stirs in us an expectation that is already fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus and leaves us longing for a heavenly home with him.  

“The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.” 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Advent is a gift to believers in Jesus because it invites us to slow down. Let’s not miss this chance to take it one day at a time for a bit as we wait for the celebration of Christmas. There aren’t many other things like it in our world of quick communication, continuous connection and instant gratification. Let’s take some time this Christmas to reflect on the gift of longing for the home that Jesus promised He has gone ahead to make for us in John 14 verse 3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” During the season of Advent this year I hope you remember a few key things that will stir this hope for home for you.  

You are not the center of it all  

Ok maybe for some this statement stings a little – but for me it is such good news! I find it a huge relief to remind myself that I am not the center of it all. During Advent our gaze is drawn back through the history of the world, even before the birth of Jesus. Imagine the longing of thousands of years that there would be a Messiah, planted within the Jewish people. All throughout our Old Testament there are prophecies that were preserved in that hope and expectation. Jesus fulfilled over 300 of them by his conception, birth, life and death in the years He was on earth. We look forward to seeing how many more Biblical prophecies will be fulfilled when Jesus comes back to take us to be at home in heaven. Every believer who has died has completed that Journey, but they are not the last. No matter what happens in the future, it is convicting and comforting to remember that you are not the center of it all.  

The arrival of Jesus came as a fulfillment of millennia of waiting for the Jewish people – and He is the center of it all. It’s His second coming that we long for as we celebrate His birth, we remember that there are more people who are being called into this anticipation with us. This is the real joy of the Christmas season – it’s Jesus, it’s the others who are longing for something they may try to fill with opulent Advent calendars, it’s us serving and opening wide the doors so that they might find a home in Him through our church.  

You can take a beat

Here’s a great phrase that we borrow from the world of music – a short pause is called a beat. Taking a beat means pause before reacting. Before your next quick retort, before your next impulse buy or your next binge watch: take a beat. What a great idea in the Christmas season that shouts at us to snag that deal, finish that project before the end of the year or squeeze one more event on that social calendar. Why not take a moment to light a candle and gaze into the flicker of the flame? Allowing the Holy Spirit to cultivate the fruit of patience in us. I recently read a clarification from the Bibe that blew my mind – God is patient, but He’s not slow.  

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  

2 Peter 3:9 

If God is patient so that more people can find Him, I can follow His example by making generous room in my Advent season for those who don’t know contentment in Him yet. There’s an art to taking that pause and looking for someone who might be frantically searching for more. Or maybe taking the pause allows room to notice how empty and numb someone is who doesn’t know He can bring fulfillment and peace.  

The promises of God

Advent opens our eyes to the faithfulness of God to keep His promises in the past and we’re reassured the best is yet to come. We have no idea exactly when He will come again, but the Holy Spirit highlights those precious promises in the Bible that strengthen our faith. The same wonderful promises that inspire us to go and seek those who need to hear them. We are blessed and given a guide for fellowship with others in these promises. We are equipped and empowered for every good work by the promises.  

I hope you receive the gift of longing for home during Advent this year, and that you find Jesus is coming to make Himself at home in your heart.