I recently came across an old journal entry. It was written last year, around Christmas time, and it included my thoughts on my first Christmas in Korea. To complete the post I added an application. So consider it an “ex-pat’s Christmas reflection” written over the course of a year abroad.
I was recently at a benefit Christmas concert where the proceeds would go to help widows and orphans in Bangladesh. Everyone who attended had a great time, and the music brought about feelings of nostalgia and warm memories of Christmas’ long ago (or a year ago…).
It has been hard to get into the typical festive Christmas mood, here, in Korea because Christmas hasn’t been turned completely over to materialism and consumerism. Here in Korea, E and I don’t watch TV. Stores only sell Christmas decorations because they know the foreigners will buy their Christmas stock. Generally, only 1 in 5 stores will decorate, and they typically are the only ones playing Christmas music, as well. We aren’t bombarded by Hallmark adds and department store sales.
Korea also is missing a very positive part of the Christmas season; the salvation army bell-ringers. (Edit: I just saw a bell-ringer here this Christmas…I guest Korea gets more festive with each passing December)
Combining all this together makes for a lonely (or quiet) Christmas, for sure. But it only get’s more lonely when we take time to remember our Northern neighbors; North Korea.
In America we feel as though Christmas is a time when nothing can touch us- nothing can hurt us. It is a time when the world feels right again. This is true, unless something or someone was taken from you. Christmas then becomes something painful that only serves to remind us that the world is not right and we are not safe.
Safety isn’t what advent is about, though.
Advent is about learning to trust when all we have is silence.
This advent season, we’re celebrating the truth that Christ has come. We’re celebrating that he secured, starting with his birth, and grandly concluding with His death and resurrection, our ransom from sin and death.
It’s easy to trust in the safety of Christ’s sacrifice when we’re living in the Easter season. Easter is a tangible holiday filled with physical testaments to Christ’s resurrection. It’s the happy ending to the story.
No, it’s not like Easter. Advent is different.
In the silence, the Christ-follower dares to have the smallest of expectation. Hope in something more exists only as flickering flame on a use-shortened candle.
It’s true that no Christian enjoys the “waiting” that comes from Advent. We must remember, though, that Easter would never have been possible without Advent.
From the darkness of Advent we have the beginning. We are able to enjoy advent because, in our waiting, Christ has come to mean something significant. In our waiting through the darkness, Christ becomes someone we can trust.
We all know the story; Mary, a young single, virgin girl, has just received life-altering news.
She was told, by an angel that she would be giving birth to the son of God.
Tragically, the defining part of this story is often skimmed (or altogether skipped) while we read. Mary, after hearing the news, reacts; but not the way you would assume a (possibly 15-year-old) girl, learning-the-course-of-her-life-is-forever-changed-because-of-an-unexpected-pregnancy would react. Without doubting, complaining, or any form of self-sympathy, Mary simply sings a song of praise to God.
It’s a song we now call the Magnificat. The words go like this:
My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength
and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his sons for ever.
So, this Advent season, during our moments of waiting, may we remember Christ’s mercy and the protection He has given us. When the enemy is at our North, and South, may we remember the coming victory. May we know that Christ is King, and has given us a true reason to hope.