After experiencing a wonderful Christmas choral production at my church, I was milling around talking to friends. Two of them made me keenly aware once again that there are two sides to this Season.
Jerry, an older gentleman who had been experiencing serious heart problems, shared with me what can be described as nothing less than a physical miracle.
His heart was brimming with joy.
He was in awe of a report of improved health so stark and sudden that his doctor simply shook his head and said, “I have no way to explain this!”
While I was hearing this delightful report, my wife was talking to another beautiful friend who also is going through an extreme health crisis. Cheryl’s tears and struggle with both pain and discouragement evoked a flood of our own tears.
She was filled with questions and disappointments, wrestling with God while loving Him immensely. Torn between hardship and hope; fear and faith; disappointment and delight.
Her heart was aching for comfort.
Like the Tale of Two Cities, this Season is simultaneously “the best of times” and “the worst of times”.
Hearing about the distinct difference in the present experiences of these two dear people filled me with gratitude for Christmas.
Jesus entered our world and immersed Himself in it…all of it.
Advent is all about the coming of Christ into the real world with its ups and downs, thrills and traumas, pleasures and pains, rejoicing and regrets, distresses and delights.
And to it He brought both “comfort and joy”.
For those, like Jerry, who are dancing in good fortune, filled with the laughter and relief of life when it makes perfect sense…Jesus offers joy.
The first Advent an Angel announced, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today…a Savior has been born to you…” (Luke 2:10-11)
Ever since, this Season has been suffused in light and life, filled with singing and dancing, expressed in giving and feasting.
Joy is the obvious message of Advent. A Savior–One who gets us out of the mess we’ve made–has been born. We simply have to rejoice.
But for those, like Cheryl, who are walking through a dark valley surrounded by the agonies and perplexities of life when it makes no sense…Jesus offers comfort.
Seven centuries before Bethlehem, an old Prophet predicted, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
The coming of Christ has always lent the greatest solace to hurting hearts because it demonstrates in the clearest way that God is not unmoved by our questions or unacquainted with our pain.
Comfort is the other message of Advent. A Savior–One who joins us in the mess we’re in–has been born. We simply have to receive.
The flat fact of the matter is that when Jesus wiggled His way into our world through a birth canal in Bethlehem, He was determined to live where we live. No distance. No difference.
The central message of Advent is Joy!…to the whole world!
But an even greater reality of His coming is that in the ongoing saga, sadness and stages of our lives, by His Spirit Jesus still lives where we do. No distance. No difference.
The continuing message of Christmas is Comfort!…to the broken heart.
This is the beauty of the Story–“tidings of comfort and joy”.
God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Savior
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy