This post is by Hannah Oxley.
In the Midwest, the first snowfall is downright magic. In the span of a few hours, strangers on the sidewalk are jollier, customers roll like waves into local book shops and boutiques with that special someone in mind, and every kid in town seems to have memorized the entirety of the Target holiday catalog. Christmas carols dance overhead as students shuffle into libraries in hopes that a few cram sessions will get them through finals.
Just like that, with months-old pumpkins still on our front steps and turkey leftovers in the freezer, the Advent season is upon us.
As Christians, we know this time of year is so much more than an excuse to buy extravagant gifts and drink our weight in peppermint mochas. The beauty of Advent (beginning December 1st and ending on Christmas Eve) is the time it allows us to truly prepare our hearts for the coming of the Savior without whom we would be utterly lost. How does the song go?
Let earth receive her king / Let every heart prepare him room.
If I’m being honest, it’s December 1st, and my heart doesn’t feel like it has any room left to give. It feels overwhelmed and burdened by a full schedule and a fear of missing out on my favorite time of year (again), because I couldn’t get my stuff together in time to enjoy it.
The hard truth is, sometimes, our hearts just aren’t ready. Not on their own. But praise God! We serve a king whose name is Faithful and True. A king who spared no part of himself and redeemed a world filled with sinners, bestowing his holiness “to those who believed in his name, [giving them] the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12 NIV) Our hearts may feel hardened by circumstance, but our emotions cannot revoke our salvation. In fact, they are powerless when compared to the Lord Almighty who freely gave us His Son so that we could be saved and share in His strength.
So, what do we do? As we walk the line between knowing in our heads that we are saved by grace, yet feeling in our hearts like we can’t rest in that Truth? We plant our feet firmly on the foundation that is the Word of God. We make the time to remember, repent, and rejoice so that we may rest fully in the beauty of the gospel.
El-Roi, the God who sees me. How my soul longed to know this name, even before I believed in Him. Through seasons of weariness and anxiety, we remember the Father who cares for us. He doesn’t just know us, He sees us. He sees our pain and our sadness, our exhaustion and our wandering. To remember El-Roi is to remember that our worth does not come from our accomplishments or our performance. We are treasured by our Creator more than we will ever know on this side of Heaven.
Yet, we are still human, and sin still lurks in the shadows. 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (NIV) As we confess our sin to God, we get to rest knowing we are forgiven, and we are made holy and blameless through Jesus Christ.
When our hearts aren’t happy, we choose joy, because even on our worst day, the gospel is immovable and timeless. In every season, we rejoice, and we live out Psalm 148 in the company of all creation.
“Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.” (Psalm 148:2-3)
Friends, do not despair if your heart feels hardened, nor believe the lie that you must hide it. Not from Jesus, who carried all of our burdens with him to the cross, not from your community, who, as fellow believers, are called to encourage you always, and not from yourself, for you are beautifully redeemed by the Father.
Merry Christmas, believer. May this season bring you closer to El-Roi, the God who sees us.
Hannah Oxley is a writer, a youth group leader, and an avid reader. When she’s not writing or working in her favorite bookstore Mystery to Me in Madison, WI), she can be found sipping coffee with friends and/or roaming the aisles of Trader Joe’s.
Jumpstart your mornings with my free workshop and the 3-Minute Morning Kit.