Don’t Wait for January 1st: Begin Again Right Where You Are

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{This is the second post in a series of what Advent is all about. Read Part 1 here.}

Advent is actually the Christian “new year.” It is the beginning, and a rather strange one at that.

It begins without fanfare, fireworks and flash. And we begin again, not when the spring bursts into new life, or even when the light returns. We begin again, even as the days are darkening. We begin again, when ice is settling over the world.

We begin with a longing.

A longing for the celebration of Christmas, the coming of the Saviour incarnate, and so many hopes fulfilled and feasted.

A longing for the day our Saviour returns, and a longing made all the stronger for the dangers, toils and snares we are now enduring.

We begin with tension.

The tension of a Christ who has come, and a Christ who will come, a kingdom in seed form waiting full flowering.

The tension of ordinary life and all the things we cannot control, all the while acknowledging there is One who holds all things together by “one little word.”

We begin with hunger.

The hunger for beauteous light to break, for life to come, for the warmth of a God-kindled fire.

The hunger that takes patience as a journey-mate and trusts in One who is beyond time.

Traditionally, Advent was often a time of fasting. Not a revolving door of pre-Christmas parties, but a time to abstain in order to locate and live with the hunger so necessary to our right position before our Creator.

Why? 

Why begin here of all places in the life of Christ (for that is what the liturgical calendar revolves around each year, that is what gives it its shape), and why begin now of all seasons?

There is an ancient wisdom to this.

How do we begin again? How do we contemplate a new year? How do we truly gain a fresh start, with fresh vision?

By putting ourselves in a place of longing, tension, and hunger. By recognizing our deep and abiding need for God. By acknowledging that we can never shape the coming year in the strength of our own resolutions, but that we must first allow the true shape of our darkness and need to emerge. Only then will we welcome the true Light when it comes. Only then will our souls weep for relief and joy at his appearing. We cannot begin without Him. And we cannot have Him unless we have known the want of Him.

This wisdom gives us a humble beginning.

This wisdom whispers – Make yourself small. Make your need known. Make space for searching.

And the promise of Advent? He will find you.

We begin with the promise that there can always be a new beginning, even when darkness is on the rise. Even when we can’t yet see the full light of day. Even without parties, even without “happy.” You don’t need a “happy” to have a new year.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, joy will come, unspeakable and full of glory.

But in the waiting? Yes, begin here. 

In the dull of winter gloom? Yes, begin here. 

In the hurting hunger? Yes, begin here.

For the promise of Advent is no empty sentiment. He is coming, and when, yes when He does, you will flat out run, and His embrace will be just the shape of all your expectations and the sweetest filling of all that was empty.

So don’t be afraid, though the days may yet be darkening. Your beginning is now. 

If you would like to walk through this Advent with one who was no stranger to longing, might I suggest the Advent devotional Abraham’s Advent: A Stranger’s Journey to Bethlehem and Beyond? It is my hope that this little book will help keep things in focus in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

 

~lg

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