Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day"1 (Lyrics)
Revelation 22:20b – Come, Lord Jesus. (NIV)
We who regularly endure the clutch of winter's deepfreeze know what it's like to crave for spring. As each day passes, we look forward to spring with intensified longing. We may even come to the point where we cannot handle another day of icy misery. We simply must see a burst of refreshing new life. This is the essence of Advent. It's the anticipation of something that we know will come — and must come.
Advent is a tradition observed before Christmas in many churches. It prepares worshippers for the celebration of the advent or coming of Christ at His birth. I began thinking: Perhaps winter's miseries can help us grasp the essence of Advent more easily than the warm delight of candles and carols. Let's consider this:
Christ came to forgive and free us from sin's icy grip. Winter's miseries easily depict sin's ghastly blast, such as cold-heartedness, which inflicts untold sorrows on its victims, or the icy edge of bitter words, which tempts one to recoil behind layers of self protection — much like donning a heavy winter coat. Chilly, outdoor air can feel as inhospitable as a loveless community. In essence, it's a climate of unforgiveness rooted in the human heart, working as a toxin which erodes relationships, damages health, and depletes the energy for human potential.
Deep down, we long desperately to break free from this frigid grip on humanity. We long to run freely in the warm breeze. Yet, winter clings on. Where is God? In our impatience, we try to fix the disruptive effects of human brokenness. As if chipping away at ice, we clatter away with our chisels, our endless noise, and our groans — but with little effect.
That's not how the Creator turns winter into spring. He does not send angels to break up the ice or strip away the snow. By the power of His Spirit, He simply breathes mild warmth into the frozen air. The ice of hatred melts into love; the snow of conflict is replaced by peace; and the rivers of fear thaw into faith and flow again. The earth awakens, and life spontaneously bursts forth in response to His warm breath. The Spirit is working, breathing quietly. It is an irresistible power at work. We cannot create this power. We can only wait and watch for it. In this manner, God frees humanity from the wintery grip of sin. We watch for evidence of forgiveness, God's supreme gift of salvation. We know we must see it. This is our Advent longing.
In truth, Christ has already come, and we anticipate His second advent when all sin and death are wiped away. Yes, He is indeed present in our wintery Advent — this season before His return. How? By breathing His life into the hearts of fallen people, and quietly transforming them from the inside out.
I share an example of a married couple, who have been friends of mine for 40 years. As church servants, they have endured many frostbites — church hurts, some would say. These hard experiences could have stalled this couple in the frozen ice of bitterness. But instead, they listened to the quiet breath of God within their own hearts. As He had forgiven them, so they forgave their offenders. I've been quietly watching the results over the years. This couple has been free to live forgivingly among fallen people. Their energy has been free to practice lavish, gracious hospitality. Countless people, including myself, have experienced the warmth.
Let us learn to hear God's quiet breathing, lest our hearts become frosted over with doubt. But we cannot sense it if our minds are noisily preoccupied with anxious thoughts and busy strategies. We must learn to be silent. Only when we are still can we hear His breath and sense His irresistible power at work.
Prayer: Lord, work in us so that we may learn to recognize Your quiet, warm breathing in and around us — even as we fervently long for Christ's final advent. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.