Advent leaves us aching and longing for more. The reality is that in 5 days time we will have a slightly disappointing, possibly stressful day. It’s a day that is built up to for so long that it can’t ever live up to the hype. We’re thrust into family relationships that feel like going back in time or we feel isolated because our family situations are strange and different and then we’re told to be happy and rejoice. It’s a weird day. I get grumpy every Christmas day because it never lives up to the promise. My perspective is all wrong though. I’m expecting a day with no hassle, of getting the perfect presents and having the best experiences with the people I love. Mainly it’s all about me. And because of that perspective everything goes a bit wrong. I forget I still have to love the people in my life, that my sin will get in the way of that and we’ll probably get annoyed with each after our enforced time on the sofa together.
Thankfully Advent raises our gaze higher than the immediate stresses of this life and our struggles within it. Thankfully we look to the first coming so we can long and ache for the second coming, when Jesus returns and makes everything in this broken frustrating world new and shiny. A bit like when Sam wakes up and realises he’s no longer on the slopes of Mt Doom and that Gandalf isn’t dead after all.
But Sam lay back, and started with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last has gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?’
‘A great shadow has departed,’ said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then as sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.
‘How do I feel?’ he cried. ‘Well I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel’ – he waved his arms in the air – ‘I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!’
One day the great shadow on this world will depart and the sun will shine out the clearer. That’s the hope that will sustain us through this weird time of Christmas, that’s the hope that will guide us through the year ahead, that’s the hope that will call us on towards our final place of rest.