There is something about Advent and Christmastide that increases our sense of longing. Maybe it’s the intentional timing of Advent as the darkest part of the year and that we long for brighter days. Maybe it’s that many of us have a never-ending stream of opportunities to consume, and we long for the parties, the cookies, movies, and gifts, even as they can leave us longing for the next fun activity or delicious treat. For some of us, all the tradition and expectations of this season actually accentuate the fact that there is a lack of “Christmas Cheer” in your own life, and you are left longing for this season to be over completely and generally feeling empty. What is consistent is that we all have a desire to find meaning in this world, and very often we look to satisfy our cravings and longings in places that will not quench our desires and will only stave off our thirst for a while. What truly makes this time of year special, important, and meaningful is that we are anticipating the advent of Jesus who comes to heal us and repair our relationship with Him. He comes to change our hearts and desires. He is a God who heals, makes new, restores, and revives. It is easy to miss sight of all this during this season because there are so many opportunities for our desires and cravings to be quickly and easily satisfied. It is when we try to fill our seasonal cravings with only ritual and tradition that we miss Jesus and His ultimate provision for our souls, and we miss the deeper meaning for this season.
We see this in today’s passage from Exodus 15 with the Israelites. They were thirsty and in need of water, but the water they found was bitter. God had to intervene and teach the people that even when searching for the essential life-giving needs like water, true life comes only from the Spirit of God living in us. Apart from God, even physical sustenance will only feed a body whose soul is dead. Three days earlier, the people, by the Power of Almighty God, walked across the Red Sea on dry land. Now, they are thirsty and wondering where they will find relief. How soon our human needs eclipse our spiritual need for God! The flashing lights, the gifts, and the decorating during Advent and Christmas make it easy for us to forget why it is we need Jesus to come and heal our hearts. We can so easily be lured into trying to fill our longings with the abundance of festivities and cheer, only to find that without centering on Jesus, the water we seek to drink is bitter and it leaves us thirstier then before and we remain empty. The good news of the Gospel in John 4:14 says:
“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
When we invite Jesus to heal our broken hearts and quench our thirsty souls, our desires change. Knowing Jesus becomes our primary desire and is a gift that will never stop giving, a fountain that never dries up. Thus, the festivities of this season can be such wonderful blessings on top of a heart that is already full.
Adult: What are you longing for this Advent? A physical need, a desire, or an emotional need? Set aside some quiet time to give that need to the Lord and know that He sees and knows your need. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, ask Him to remind you of your ultimate need for salvation and that He met that for you on he cross and knows what your particular needs are this season too. Now, go make some cookies and enjoy your decorations as a healed, free and forgiven child of the King!
Youth: What is your favorite part of the Christmas season? Make a list of all the ways this favorite part of the season can point to Jesus. Be creative! Try to begin seeing Jesus in all that you do and celebrate this year.
The third week of Advent lectionary Scriptures:
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 Psalm 126 Luke 1:46b-55 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 John 1:6-8, 19-28