Fourth Monday of Advent: When the Light Comes

By Jeremy Vaccaro

Advent Devotional | December 19, 2022

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

—Revelation 21:3-4 (
Read Revelation 21)

By God’s grace, Christmas was always a joyful time in my house growing up. But it wasn’t without its disappointments. 

I remember an Advent season when I was young in which my greatest desire was to get a new bicycle for Christmas. As the youngest of four boys, I often had the joy of using “hand-me-downs” during my childhood. This included clothes, dress shoes, toys, and yes—bicycles. So that year, the thing I wanted most for Christmas was a brand new bicycle that I could call my own.

Of course, the hardest part of Christmas in those days was waiting for Christmas to come.

It seemed like it took forever to get through the Advent calendar. And then school would stop and the days felt even longer. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting, but waiting with a sliver of hope that Christmas morning would reveal that bicycle of my dreams.

Finally, the morning came! Still, there was more waiting.

Even though I woke before dawn, my parents didn’t let us come downstairs until 7:00 a.m. (I thought this was torturous and unjust, but when I had my own kids, I realized it was brilliant.)

My brothers and I gathered at the top of the stairs. When the clock struck 7:00, the race began—down the first flight, around the bend, and down the second flight. It must have sounded like a tornado ripping through our old house. My parents never had to set an alarm for Christmas morning.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, grateful to be alive, I saw it. A brand new bicycle stood in front of the fireplace where our Christmas stockings were always found! It was beautiful, though it looked a little big. It was just what I imagined. It was a perfect gift. I was ecstatic.

But then, I realized the dreadful truth.

The bicycle was placed in front of my brother’s stocking, not mine. The bike wasn’t for me. It was for him. There was no new bicycle for me that year, and the combination of my disappointment and envy wasn’t good for anyone.

Have you ever been disappointed by what didn’t happen?

The fact that I didn’t get a bicycle on that Christmas morning was pretty insignificant in the grand scheme. It felt hugely significant at the time, but looking back, it wasn’t that big a deal. 

Maybe you can consider some of the disappointments in your life like that too. But there are others that don’t feel so insignificant, even in hindsight. It can be especially hard when it’s something that we expected God to do.

Have you ever been disappointed with God?

As a pastor, I’ve often been disappointed, and I’ve walked with others through painful questions. Why didn’t God save this marriage? Why didn’t God keep that church together? Why didn’t God provide what was needed for us to keep our house? Why didn’t God keep my child alive? Why did God allow that abuse to happen to me? Why hasn’t God taken this sin away from me? 

One of the most difficult things for me has been to sit with parishioners in these unanswerable questions.

Even as we put our faith in Jesus, we still experience the hurt and pain and trouble and death and disappointment of this present evil age. That’s why Advent is such an important season. 

We’re waiting for the Messiah Jesus to return and bring everything under His Lordship (Ephesians 1:10). When He does, by His grace, those of us who are in Christ will be included in that New Creation. As John’s vision made clear in Revelation, in that time of restoration “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” Hallelujah!

Beloved, we can also add disappointment to that list. That’s good news.

Even those things that have been deeply disappointing will fade in the light of Jesus’ eternal glory.

I invite you to join me in lifting up those disappointments to the Lord today. Bring them before your Father in heaven. Use the Psalms of Lament to help express them with honesty and faith—even if it’s just a tiny mustard seed of faith. And receive afresh the hope of Christ’s imminent return.

—Jeremy Vaccaro is Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church Fresno, the congregation that partners with the CCO to reach college students in Fresno, California.