Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
– O Holy Night
It’s been a hard week for my beloved Tennessee. Last week, a bus accident in Chattanooga took the lives of five children days before Thanksgiving. Two days ago, wildfires in the Smoky Mountains encroached on Gatlinburg, a tourist destination packed with people this time of year to see the mountains in all their fall splendor. Stories emerged of families trapped in hotel lobbies while firefighters beat back flames and friends speeding together down a mountainside, trying desperately to outrace the deadly inferno. Then last night, a tornado touched down in the southern part of the state, causing property damage and rattling nerves.
Yes, it’s been a hard week. It’s been a hard year. Turmoil and unrest seems to be the backdrop to every news segment. There is sorrow and suffering, around the globe and amongst our neighborhoods. We commiserate after a tough election season or yet another devastating headline, asking each other, “Has it ever been this bad?”
We are a weary world.
And yet, we’ve been here before, haven’t we? Just ask Israel. Two thousand years ago, they had endured slavery, famine, hardship, loss and a series of increasingly misguided kings. They’d watched their temple be destroyed, rebuilt it and watched it be destroyed again. They were a people who had wandered without a home for generations.
They knew darkness. They knew fear. They knew war. Far better than we do, if we’re honest.
Despite the suffering, a vein of hope ran through them. Their prophets said that a Savior was coming. A Messiah; the one who would rescue them. It was precisely when all seemed lost — a far-off empire levying taxes once more; a blood-thirsty ruler on the throne, that God smiled and said, “Now. We will send him now.”
And a baby was born amongst livestock, to a simple teenage girl and her carpenter fiance. A baby who would change everything. The waiting was over; the Savior had come.
Yes, it’s been a hard year. But it’s Advent now. It’s time to turn our eyes from what has been to what is coming. It is a season of preparation and anticipation, and not just of family togetherness and traditions with our children and gifts. The promise of Advent runs much deeper than that, and I for one am clinging to it more desperately than ever.
He didn’t come so we could continue to dwell in fear. He didn’t come so we could hold onto our hate and our mistrust and our stubborn opinions. He didn’t come so that we could shout each other down with our rightness.
He came to give us hope, peace, joy and love.
There’s a glorious morning coming, my friends. Let your soul feel it and be lightened.
This is Advent.