Christmas season is almost here, and with it a new season of Advent. If you are anything like me, you may have found yourself wondering at one time or another: What exactly is Advent?

Advent (derived from the Latin word adventus which means “coming” or “arrival”) is the first season of the church’s liturgical year. It starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This year, it will begin on November 29 and end on Christmas Eve. Advent is a season where Christians celebrate the birth of Christ (his first coming) while also looking forward with hope and expectation to his second coming.

Advent is an opportunity for us to look up from our dark circumstances and seek the light of the Lord. It is a chance for us to acknowledge the ache that we feel in our day to day: the ache for the brokenness of the world, the ache in our hearts for something more, and the ache of anticipation as we await Christ’s return.

The line in Adolphe Adam’s “O Holy Night” hits a little bit deeper this year as we are all in the midst of unprecedented and isolating circumstances:

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

He is our thrill of hope despite the hopelessness we have often felt during this pandemic. The weary world rejoices that God sent his son to restore our broken hearts and this broken world. The weary world rejoices that he is consistent and trustworthy, and that in him we have a future free from pain, suffering, and tears (Revelation 21:4).

The weary world rejoices that King Jesus, the Suffering Servant, would come into the world, willingly die, and rise again for all believers (Isaiah 53). The weary world rejoices that the Lord takes our weaknesses upon himself (Matthew 8:17) and welcomes us into the refuge of His perfect peace.

And, in Advent, a weary world waits with the glimmering and enduring hope of the Lord shining into our darkest hurts and hardships. A weary world remembers and celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ in a lowly manager, a Savior born in the most unexpected of ways in the most unexpected of places to save the world and lead us out of our despair.

And as believers who find themselves between the first and second coming of Christ, we wait. We faithfully wait with hopeful assurance in what we do not yet see (Hebrews 11:1). We wait with joy and expectation because we know that this is not the end of the story.

The celebration of Advent is an opportunity to acknowledge that the ache we feel matters and where we place our hope matters. Jesus is every promise fulfilled, every question answered, and every treasure revealed.

This year has been especially painful. So, let us take some time this holiday to soak our hearts in the hope at the core of Advent.

This Advent season, will you join us? Let us reflect on the birth of our Savior and the new life he ushered us into with his death. And let our hearts return to him again and again, looking ahead with confident anticipation as we await his glorious return.

Liz Newman