I have never thought more about the second coming of Christ than I have this year. 2020. A year that arrived with such vision and hope, yet will depart as a rear view nightmare marked by uncertainty and despair. In the the midst of such a roller-coaster year, I have never clung so adamantly to the prophecy and promises of the second advent, or coming, of Jesus.
So as we near the finale of a ridiculously messed up year, may this season of Advent be different.
Along side tiny chocolates and kind neighborly gestures, may we whisper sweet morsels of longing to our Savior and reflect kindness in the image of the One who taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Maybe 2020 is the year God pressed pause so He could remind us how to love.
2020 has been “different” to put it mildly. This Advent is different too.
Psalm 23 might seem like an unlikely address to go to for Advent, but allow God to surprise you with His living and breathing Word.
One of the greatest lessons this year has taught us is the great divide between what we want and what we need. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (v1) While so much has been seemingly taken from us this year, God’s provision of what we need abounds. Down time, family time, quiet time, more sleep, more creativity, more time outdoors, and more dependency on Him. Less want, more need, period.
And one of our greatest needs is more Sabbath — more rest for our souls. “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” (v2) His green pastures and still waters may look more like the family dinner table and long walks through the neighborhood, nevertheless, the provision is rest.
Our Shepherd has led us back to the very sources of love and life that restore our souls. “He restores my soul.” (v3) He knows and fully understands the chaos of this year, yet when we look beyond our circumstances and discover the provision of pasture and stream, we will find Jesus. The Good Shepherd.
In a year of great debate between right and wrong, Jesus reminds us that being right does not always make you righteous. “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (v3) Jesus did not teach us to defend our right to be right, He taught us to choose the path that leads to right relationship with Him. For His name’s sake, not our own. Your right to be right rests in the shadow of the Savior.
Many of us have walked through our darkest days in 2020. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (and darkness), I will fear no evil, for you are with me;” (v4) His presence is a promise. He goes before, behind us, if we turn to the left or the right, He is there. His presence can and will penetrate our pain like a needle drawing pressure off of our heavy hearts. It hurts like hell, but it heals us from the inside out.
2020 has also been a year of discipline, or not. “…your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (v4) The Shepherd’s crook is not meant to “steal” our freedom, but to guide us, direct us, and remind us how to find the green pastures and still waters. Discipline is a comfort when it is given in love and disciples embody the discipline of the Savior.
As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the first coming of Christ, let us remember the table He later prepared for His disciples. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (v5) Communion becomes a celebration of advent, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension when we believe in the One who is coming again. He invites everyone to the table, longs to set you apart, and give you life abundant in the power of His Spirit.
And so believers can shout this from the rooftops as Christmas approaches, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (v6) Jesus is coming again! We will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. He has gone to prepare a place for you and me. This is God’s deepest longing — to dwell with His children. The garden tells us so.
Has 2020 been ridiculous? Yes. Has 2020 messed up almost everything? Absolutely.
However, 2020 does not get to ruin Advent. We have a choice. Let this Advent be different. Choose to look for Jesus.