I feel like I say far too often, “I can’t believe another year has gone by!”  Yet, it’s true.

It is the second week of Advent and 2011 will draw to close in three weeks. I can hardly believe all the changes that have taken place in my life this past year. Maybe that is why I am appreciating Advent more than ever. Observing Advent is a ritual I take part in every year, wherever I live. It isn’t limited to one time or one place. Rather, Advent is about a person—Jesus Christ who came to earth “to dwell among us.” This is a comforting thought.  Christ is with me no matter where I go or where I live.

I wrote last year how much I look forward to my arrival of the Regent College Advent Reader, which I use to guide me through the days of Advent.  This year was no exception.  Each day contains a morning and evening reading.  The scripture passages and the readings have been carefully chosen and written.  I don’t normally do a morning and evening Bible reading (gee, wouldn’t that sound impressive if I did!) so even this change in my routine reminds me that something is different.

If you at all think Advent is warm-fuzzies and good cheer, think again.  I have been struck this year by the misery, the yearning, the suffering that God entered into when he sent his Son to earth as a baby.  His people weren’t a perfect lot and still aren’t!  But God entered that messiness because of his love for me—for the world. I can type those words more easily than I can fathom them. As I read the daily scripture passages, I come face-to-face with my own brokenness and disappointments.

Last night I read Isaiah 40: 1-11. The passage strikes me as a mixture of comfort, prophecy, and also a reality check. Verse 1 begins by Isaiah telling the people of Israel, “Comfort, Comfort my people says your God,” which is a reminder that God does care about the well-being of his people.  In verse 3, there is a prophetic reference to John the Baptist and eventually the Messiah—“a voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way for the Lord.” And then in vs.6-8 a reminder of how limited humankind really is, “all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers fall.”  The passage ends with a beautiful image of God acting like our shepherd as he “tends his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”

This passage reflects the mixed bag that is so often a reality of life.  There will be times of peace, times of pain, times of joy, and times of suffering.  Thankfully, because of the Incarnation, God has made clear He has chosen “to dwell among us” regardless the circumstances.

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