Finding Joy in Advent
by Nayomi Thomas
On December 31, 2019, shortly after writing Finding Hope in Advent, I asked the Lord a question. I honestly did not expect Him to answer. Yet, in frustration, I exhaled my inquiry with sharp words and a dull heart: “Lord, what will 2020 be like? I am so tired of this idea that is going around that we will have 20/20 vision.” To my surprise and, undoubtedly, for my edification, I was not met with chastising silence. Despite my sarcasm, the Lord, in His wisdom and kindness, replied instantly with His Word. He met me with gentleness and not an ounce of contempt: “Psalm 27.”
You would have thought that anyone in their right and humble mind would have thanked the Lord for His response; but my acutely foolish heart shot back: “Give that to the prayer room.” I guess you can say that somewhere along these twenty years cynicism had crept in my heart and birthed callousness. I had stopped beholding Him and had been engaging in navel-gazing, esteeming my own thoughts and outlook while closing my eyes to what God had to show me in His Word.
But God wasn’t going to leave me turned in on myself (“incurvatus in se,” to use Augustine’s words) and so blind to Him. He is the lifter of our heads to behold His glory and revelation. So again, with wondrous love and the patience only Abba possesses—without a hint of anger or impatience—His response came in two simple words: “Check again.”
And check again I did.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:5)
Upon reading it, I was left dumbfounded! How had I forgotten the wonderful promises made to David in his hour of crisis and the grace upon his heart to know the right response? Verse 8 goes on to say, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, I will seek.'” There is such a refreshing simplicity in that response!
Since that Advent of 2019, the Holy Spirit has issued a call to find refuge in God’s dwelling place by drawing near and seeking His face. The year 2019 unfolded into the now historically horrific 2020—which brought changes and realities that continue to wreak their chaos into all our lives—and 2021—which only seemed to compound these issues. Yet this call has continued to lift my head away from myself and to raise my gaze to behold Christ and His beauty.
Every Advent season, we celebrate that brave Boy who grew up during times of oppression, abuse, civil unrest, political upheaval, and everything unstable by leaning on His heavenly Father. This is the one in whom we have been offered true peace, a peace we often overlook or flat out reject as we addictively assuage our souls with the elixir of bad news coming from CNN or Fox, which only serve to justify our present conditions and feed our own pet anxieties. In doing so, we despise not merely the power of His first coming but lose the ability to wage war with the promise of the second coming. Beloved, if He truly came the first time, He is guaranteed to come back again. And if He is truly coming back again, we are a people of tremendous true hope! Realize this: We celebrate Advent as a means to wage war.
In 1 Timothy 1:18 we read, “This charge I commit to you . . . according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.” Our faith is a promise of defeat for the enemy and a cause for celebration.
Whether we sit by our fires or our candles or have simply chosen to open up a box of chocolates in observation, there is something more to celebrating this season. Advent is less about the mechanics of our celebration and more about the seeking of the face of the God-man, who fully grasps the anguish you and I are feeling yet prevailed over it. It is not a celebration of the objects but of the object, our Savior. He was driven by love for His Father and upheld by the grace of the Spirit. And it was the Father who ensured His victory in His endeavors.
Advent is the season of victory. We celebrate the One who in coming showed us the way, and in showing us the way, we see the way of victory. Since He is victorious, so are you and I. Advent is the season in which we live out joyously—for the world to see—the fact that the blazing fire in Christ’s eyes is the lighthouse leading us to the shore in the midst of the storms, both present and yet to come.
But it comes as no surprise then, that at the commencement of Advent (when we, alongside our loved ones, are to celebrate more joyfully and bring to remembrance the incarnation and the hope of His coming) many experience an increase of hopelessness, nostalgia, and melancholy. And that despite His dwelling place being open to us as a place of safety, there continues to loom over many of our heads, ever so surreptitiously, the whisper of the serpent in the garden, “Did God really say, ‘Seek My face?’ Did God really offer Himself as your safety?”
Despite all the horrors in view and the painfully bruised and beaten down emotions—or perhaps because of all those woes—Advent is the season I want to encourage us to continue to observe because of what the holiday signifies. We are still afforded the opportunity to joyously celebrate the day love became flesh. We celebrate God’s perfect foresight in providing the One who would enter into our most tragically traumatic experiences, our ever unraveling, weak, and depraved humanity. The One who now, having experienced and having identified with our very real and personal pain, sympathizes with us and speaks to the Father on our behalf as only a perfect, sinless human can.
There is indeed something to rejoice in this Advent! Let us truly behold the One who is the comfort we so long for in this difficult and often painful season. Let’s lean into the One whose very nature is ours and whose understanding of our conditions lends not from a distant observation but by having entered into it. Let’s yield to the true spirit of this season. Perhaps it is time for us to reconsider what we mean by “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” and redirect our hearts to what is true merriness and happiness—Christ has come, and He will come again! I’ll toast to that.
How do Christ’s suffering and sympathy bring you comfort this Advent?
For more on finding joy this Christmas, we recommend Joy to the World: Trusting Father’s Leadership by Mike Bickle. Watch the message here >>
Nayomi Thomas together with her husband, Jaye Thomas, are founders of Song of Hope Ministries. Together with their family, they reside in Raymore, MO. Song of Hope endeavors to minister to the broken and hurting both in the church and in prisons. Its focus is bringing freedom through God’s written Word, discipleship, and by leading a life of worship. Nayomi is the author of the children’s series The Thankables
, as well as Giving Thanks through Leviticus: Gathering as and Act of Worship
and Advent: God Our Promise
. For more information regarding these resources, please visit nayomithomas.com