The advent of hope in my heart

Advent. The season leading up to Christmas. Noel Piper describes it as a celebration of the fulfillment of the promises God made—that he would provide a way to draw near to him. And just as the Israelites didn’t expect their king to be born in the crudest of settings, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and laid in a manger, so am I ignorant of how God will draw me near him this Christmas or for the rest of my earthly life.

Emmanuel. God with us. Jesus.

I shared recently about how much I need Advent this year. I need the promise of God’s nearness, of his drawing me to him. I need Emmanuel to cling to.

In his sermon on gratitude yesterday, Jason talked about how in giving thanks, we must make ourselves vulnerable. Giving thanks acknowledges a need or desire. It reveals our hearts. It shows that we are not whole and need others to help us. I think the same could be said about hoping.

And in his beautiful, poetic book, Touching Wonder, John Blase talks about hope—how it softens us, renews our heart. He prays, Hope has been deferred so many times…and my heart has grown cold. Melt me so that a tear might fall—not a number of them, but just one.

Does that prick your heart like it does mine?

How many times has hope been deferred in my own heart? How many times have I been disappointed, betrayed, devastated? How often have I allowed disappointment to frost my heart, just a little at a time, until I am convinced I can’t be hurt anymore? Until my heart is as ice. Until I can pretend that I don’t need hope, that I am okay, that I am in control. Until the risk of vulnerability is a faraway memory of shame.

But my coldness was no match for this year, for the trials and pains and shocks of brokenness. Insistent tears smothered my heart until it started to melt, and what is left is sadness, fear, frailty.

Emmanuel. God with us. Jesus.

Comforter. Prince of Peace. Savior.

Redeemer. Messiah. Shepherd.

Emmanuel.

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