Why We Need Advent

Do you remember that toy? Yeah, that one. The one you always wanted. The one you kept asking your parents for, telling them that if they got you this one toy you would never ask for anything again.

When you finally got the toy, was it everything you expected? Or was it somehow . . . different?

And it's not just toys that leave us with this feeling. It's the new teacher, the new iPad, the new house. The "new" arrives and it's different. Not what you expected. And often not what you thought you wanted.

That feeling you're remembering now - that the thing you wanted is different than you expected - had to have been the feeling of some people over two thousand years ago.

Their hometowns were occupied and they wanted a savior. He would be a great warrior who would come and defeat the Romans, they thought. Or perhaps a powerful king.

They did get a savior, but he was not at all what they expected.

He was a baby. Not even a baby born to a wealthy or royal family, but one born in a stable because his family had no place else to go. They expected someone to defeat the Romans, but instead got someone who could not yet hold up his own head.

Although I began babysitting at age ten and started as a nanny for one family when their youngest was a month old, it wasn't until my own son was born that it really struck me just how crazy it was that God sent a savior to the world as a baby.

Only a year old, my young son has already been to more than his share of funerals. By the age of two months, he had already been to two memorial services, and he attended his third by the time he was six months old.

When we arrived in Ohio for my grandmother-in-law's funeral, my husband's parents had not seen our son for almost a month. After ten days of caring for his mother after becoming suddenly ill and supporting his own father the best that he could, my father-in-law was worn out and beat down.

Yet, somehow, as we were gathering for the service, the moment my father-in-law picked up his grandson, his entire mood changed. His eyes lit up and he just couldn't help but smile.

Even my husband's grandfather, who was rightfully downtrodden after losing his wife of more than 65 years, was cheered up for at least a moment by the mere presence of our baby.

The same thing happened at the second service. My baby boy wiggled and cooed, and people felt relief - a break from the pain of loss.

That hope and peace found in our own baby boy, must be a small helping of the kind of hope found in the Baby Jesus.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus is found saying, "Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest."

Come to me. Find hope. Find peace. Find rest. All three we find in him before he can talk.

It's because of our own expectations that we need Advent - not a time to wait for the gift we think we want, but a time to prepare to receive the gift we need, the gift of love and hope that comes with the baby savior, even if all he can do is just look back with a gassy smile.