As I reflect back on the Advent season, some thoughts come to mind. Advent is all about reliving the anticipation for the coming Messiah, right? But when you look at the language of the Old Testament, it wasn’t this excited, happy, “Santa Claus is coming to town,” “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” kind of anticipation. It was a desperate longing. A crying out to God in the midst of pain, confusion, and almost even anger. It is interesting how Advent strikingly resembles a lament. If we go through Advent without reliving the lamenting of the people of Israel, I think we miss out on something.
Contrast is a huge part of our lives and really important. In an autumn landscape, if all the trees were exactly the same color, it just would not be nearly as beautiful as the contrast of all the colors. Think of some of your most favorite foods. In food, one flavor, take salty for example, is okay, but it’s multiple flavors together that make food tasty. Salt is fine, but when you put buttery, sweet, and salty together, it makes something amazing—salted caramel chocolates. Mmmmm. Without the salt, though, it’s just an ordinary caramel. In the same way, when we go through Advent, if we miss the lamenting, longing part, the joyful part is just not as good.
Contrast. It gives everything context. How do we really understand joy without the contrast of suffering? The apostle Paul said, “I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 7:4). Kay Warren defines joy as “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” It’s not that suffering is necessary for us to have joy, but how much more can we take joy in something when we contrast it with suffering. Psalm 43:4 says, “There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!” Psalm 86:8 says “Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; Nor are there any works like Your works.” There is contrast again. There is no one like our God. That fact contrasted with everything else makes our God the source of true joy. Joy is really the natural response to the understanding that, in all things, God is god.
So as we finish the Advent season, our final resting place is joy. We have joy because our God is like no other God. Our God, since the dawn of sin, promised to make things right again. Our God kept His promise. And our God will also keep his promise to come again. Because of all these things, we can have joy.