Living with an Advent Heart

Living with an Advent Heart
by Katy Kornegay

I threw down my pack and then flung my body onto the grass beside it. It was my first time to go hiking – like real hiking – in real mountains, with real gear. There were more than sixty of us, and it became clear to me as soon as we hit the first switchback that this wasn’t going to be as easy as Fräulein Maria made it seem.

After nearly four hours of me begging my legs not to give out – not to stop – because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get them going again, there I lay in a field. I could feel the blood pumping frantically through my veins. I stared up at the sky – framed by the three-foot high grass – wondering in unbelief how I’d have the strength to do it all again tomorrow… and then again the day after that. My tired soul wanted to stay right there forever.

That’s when I heard them, “Come on… let’s go!  It’s almost dark.”

“Dark…” I thought with a smile, “…that means sleep. Where could you possibly want to go before sleep?”

And that’s when they found me hidden in the grass.

“KATY, COME ON!! You HAVE to go with us! Just five minutes up there… the view is incredible!”

Convicted by FOMO, I followed them for five minutes (and then suspiciously for another fifteen after that) up the most rugged yet unassuming hill. At that point, I was only sure of one thing – someone had lied about the five minutes.  

Then my feet hit the crest of the bluff and my thoughts were stunned to silence.

It was like nothing I had seen before – my first up-close-and-personal moment with the French Alps. As we crept closer to the edge of the cliff, I kept trying to take it all in. My brain couldn’t compute fast enough – it was so picturesque, so grand, so untouched by humanity. The mountains looked absolutely surreal, like Monet himself had painted them – the greens and blues so otherworldly and the grey streaks in the setting sky so delicately fierce. I wanted to reach out and touch some part of it – to take it home in my pocket – the glacier, the waterfall, the snowcapped peak.  

“What does it make you think, Zach?” A camper had broken the silence. I stared at Zach wondering what on earth he could possibly say to describe… all this.

“It makes me think… if it’s this beautiful now, what will it look like when Jesus returns?”

His words sat in the air… holy.

He had said it in a whisper and yet it felt like he had shouted it.  He had shouted it from the mountain: “Jesus Christ is LORD.”

Even today, I am still stunned by Zach’s words. He could have said a million other things. He could have told those high schoolers (and the out-of-breath twenty-something following along) that the colors were cool. He could have commented on how the mountains looked bigger than the Rockies. He could have said the only word that kept popping around in my mind, “Wow.”  

But he didn’t. In his God-given wisdom, he stopped and seized the moment. And in doing so, he dove into a sweet conversation about Jesus with the others who were up there on that hill. It was the middle of July and yet Zach was living with an expectant Advent heart.  

We’re in that Advent now – a season where we, as the church, in the weeks before Christmas earnestly wait for and prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth – all while anticipating His return. It’s historically a month of great joy and hope. It’s a time when we could choose to say any of a million things as we wait for December 25th. We could comment on how much shopping we have or haven’t done with co-workers. We could talk of eggnog and parties at the check-out counter. We could lament the hustle and bustle of the season with friends and how we just can’t wait for it all to be over.  

Of course, that’s not to say that these aren’t perfectly honest conversation starters. Yet – in the midst of Advent – when the days are shorter and colder, when the world presently feels chaotic and bleak, when it’s easy to be cynical and Scrooge-ish – we’re invited to consider how Jesus, the Light of the World, has pierced into our personal darkness and given us hope, filled us with gratitude, been our peace…. and how we expectantly await His return.

2016 has been hard for so many in our family of faith. We’ve experienced unparalleled heartache, loss, confusion, persecution, and pain – and yet, Jesus told the crowds, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

This is a sweet season to share the Light of Life with others; to testify to His goodness and faithfulness and grace. Though most of us probably won’t have the chance to literally “Go Tell It on A Mountain” like Zach did, we all have our own mountains – be it home, work, school, or somewhere in-between. The place where we can slow down and share about how He’s come and how He’ll come again, where we can tell how we’ve seen His Light shining in our darkness, where we can witness to how He’s changed and is changing our lives.  

This Advent, let’s consider:

In what ways can we turn our eyes to our neighbors, friends, family, and even strangers in our midst – and highlight His Light – with our words, actions, resources, or time?

May we each faithfully follow His nudges and be encouraged as we humbly share with one another how we’ve ‘told it on the mountain’ this Advent.