When I saw this meme, I literally laughed out loud because it is so true! The first thing we ask each other around early November is, "Are you ready for Christmas?" People mean all kinds of things by this question, but mostly, what people mean by this question is, "Are your decorations out and is your tree up? Have you bought presents?"
But really, are we ready for Christmas? I mean spiritually. For the last couple of weeks, we have been talking about the book of Job and talking about suffering. If you missed it, run back and check our Sermon Archive or our Sermon Podcast.
Suffering doesn't sound exactly like a great Advent topic, right? We're all used to the nativity story with shepherds, sheep, kings, and camels. But, the story of Jesus begins long before that. The story of Christ in the lives of humanity begins in Genesis, and it begins with God.
At the fall of humanity and creation, suffering would be a given. There would be pain and death. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. With death comes an assortment of pain and grief.
Prophecies of Christ's birth come in the midst of darkness, pain, suffering, and death. Jesus was born into the chaos of the world to be light and life of humanity. My favorite Christmas hymn is 'O Holy Night.' In the second verse is the line,
"The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger, In all our trials born to be our Friend. He knows our need-- to our weakness is no stranger.
God comes in the midst of our suffering. God comes in the dirt and grime of life. God reaches out to a hurting world and offers life in the midst of death. In our series on Job, we talked this week about how Job wants an encounter with God. He wants to know exactly why God is letting all these bad things happen to him. And Job gets an encounter with God--it is an encounter for which he was not prepared.
When Job encounters God, ready to put God on the spot and demand answers, God comes to Job and asks Job some questions. God asks Job, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand." In other words, if you know everything, why don't you try telling me who I Am.
This fixes it for Job. This is the comfort that Job needs. We have the privilege of a backstory to Job's suffering. Job did not have that privilege. We don't have reasons for our own suffering. But, what we will have, if we allow it to happen, is an encounter with God. That is what the Season of Advent is all about. It is about encountering God, lots of times, in ways we do not expect, and also in ways we have not encountered God before.
So in this season, I wish you warmth, and I wish you a heart that searches for an encounter with God.