We are well into the season of Advent 2020, and we have to confess what a strange and difficult season it is. Advent is that time every year when we, as Christians, wait with anticipation and hope for the coming promise of Christmas, for that moment when we will hear the cry of our Savior rising up from a manger. The first cries of our salvation, the voice of love making a noise that we all can hear.
And yet, it is a season that depends so much upon both anticipation and hope, and those are two things that this year seems to have taken from us.
It is so hard to live in expectation when things can change in an instant, when there's this threat of something we still don't full understand hanging over us. When we keep hearing new guidelines and new guesswork and new ideas about what we should or should not be doing and when and where and with whom. We have just eleven days left now until Christmas morning, and there's not one of us who isn't at least mildly aware of how much can change in eleven days in 2020. How are we possibly supposed to make plans?
Not only that, but how are we supposed to let ourselves even think of Christmas morning right now? How are we supposed to have dreams of the whole family gathered around the Christmas tree? How do we know how much bacon or ham to buy, or how much waffle batter to mix up? How do we know whose stockings to fill or whose to pack in the car for a porch drop-off? Between now and Christmas? Anything can happen.
And the kind of year that we're having...it's just had it hard to anticipate anything. It's made it so hard to hold out a grand idea for anything. It's made it so hard to even think about things being anything like they always have been. Which is weird, I know. We are craving Christmas this year like no other year before us - the decorations are near sold out at the stores, the lights have been up on houses for a long time, those who have never decorated at all have gone all out this year. There's something in us that is just craving Christmas, and at the same time, there's something in us that is so scared to admit that. So scared to say it out loud because we know, we just know, that it's going to be different this year. Somehow. In ways that maybe we haven't even fathomed yet.
After all, we still have eleven days.
And hope? What is hope? We have spent the last ten months hoping for a glimpse of normalcy, hoping for our lives to look something like they used to. Hoping for cures and for healing and for opportunities. Hoping for the chance to get something back that we feel like we've lost, and yet, we've been forced to live not just without it, but still losing it every moment. This year has taken so much from us, so much that we don't know if we'll ever get back - in some cases, so much that we know we can never get back. And then, there's Christmas, and we're supposed to just...hope? Where has hope gotten us in the past ten months? How can we believe it's supposed to be somehow different this time, somehow different because two thousand years ago, a virgin gave birth in a stable?
Precisely because that is the very moment, the very first moment, that hope cried out for us. That's how we can believe it.
This Advent, it's so different. It's so difficult. It's so hard. This year has given us so many challenges, and it seems to have stripped away everything in us that has always been so good at both anticipation and hope. But we can't let it steal this season from us. We can't let it take this moment, too. Our Christmas is probably going to look different this year. We know that, even if we don't know exactly what that means yet.
But there's still a Savior in a manger crying out in love. That hasn't changed, and it's not going to. And we simply can't - we can't - let even a year like this one take that away from us.