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Advent: Joy in the Desert

As we enter into the third week of Advent, which is presented in rose colored vestments and called “the week of joy,” we light the third candle, the one that sticks out from all the rest.

I’m going through an Advent devotional that is relaying all the generations of the Old Testament. To be frank, it’s depressing. Adam and Eve brought about sin, Cain killed Abel, everyone was acting up, so God brought in the flood, Abraham almost had to kill his son, Jacob hurt Esau, the first-borns were murdered, the Israelites were disobedient. Some of these stories have happy endings, some don’t. Regardless, it seems like so much damage has been done that there’s no point in trying!

I’m at the part where Hezekiah destroys everything that is keeping his people from God, and I have to think, “Okay but what about their hearts?” Then the bible makes it sound like they turn back pretty quickly, but I’m skeptical. (This is where I realize I would’ve made a terrible prophet because of how little trust I would’ve had in these people.) After this, you see that things actually are really bad. “Ah!” I think, “this is what I would expect.” But I can only think ahead to what will be coming, Jesus’ birth. That sort of smacks me with the thought, “Well that’s not fair.” All these families ruining generations of people, then they get a pass? Seems kind of ridiculous. 

Then I realize, I’m comparing these families to my own, to the families I know, to the examples before me, to what the world portrays as average. The families I know don’t just give up their idols and cry out in repentance to God — I don’t just give up my idols and cry out in repentance to God. And He knows that, and He wants me anyways, He wants my broken family anyways, He wants your broken family. He wants every part of it, even the parts that you don’t. 

This third week of Advent is a pause, to sit in joy. “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.” (Isaiah 35:1-2) You may be a desert, your family may be parched land, but that is not where God wants you to stay. Thinking of flowers this time of year, when it’s cold and snowy, makes my heart ache for spring. That ache is a shadow of the ache I feel for my family to bloom. This makes me realize that the goodness I desire, the Lord desires it all the more. His birth healed so many horrible, violent, broken things. Let Him heal what seems impossible to heal in your life, and let Him do it in His time.

It is good to sit in the JOY of this week, to pause on this weary journey to Bethlehem and ponder what is coming when we finally arrive there. I encourage you to reflect on the thing(s) that give you joy this week, and may they be your offering to Jesus at His birth. And don’t give up! Eventually your family will arrive in Bethlehem. It may take generations, but each piece of the story is important to Him, and each part He wants to heal.

 

Sarah Rogers

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