“Advent, meaning “the coming,” is a time when we wait expectantly. Christians began to celebrate it as a season during the fourth and fifth centuries. Like Mary, we celebrate the coming of the Christ child, what God has already done. And we wait in expectation of the full coming of God’s reign on earth and for the return of Christ, what God will yet do. But this waiting is not a passive waiting. It is an active waiting. As any expectant mother knows, this waiting also involves preparation, exercise, nutrition, care, prayer, work; and birth involves pain, blood, tears, joy, release, community. It is called labor for a reason. Likewise, we are in a world pregnant with hope, and we live in the expectation of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. As we wait, we also work, cry, pray, ache; we are the midwives of another world.”
I’m the sort of person who listens to Christmas music starting November 1st. It seems like I’m the minority here. Most people can’t fathom having so much of the Christmas things for an entire month much less 2.
This year, I’ve barely partaken in holiday festivities, carol listening, etc. At least, for the type of person I am anyway. I think it makes me sad. So much has gone wrong this year and I still feel so unproductively sad and stuck where I am. Kind of like I don’t want to taint my favorite season with all my crap.
As we get closer to the end of the year, I’m still searching for a reason for why it all happened. I want so much to find even the slightest reason for it all… to tie it all together with a bow. I think it’s why I ended up where I am today. The more I fought, the more broken I ended up. But I just couldn’t lose so much and feel like I was coming up empty handed. Life just couldn’t end up this way with no consolation prize. So I fought. I fought for the story. I fought for the meaning. I fought and I think I should’ve gave up when I had the chance. Maybe I wouldn’t be this way… I don’t want to be this version of myself.
We’re days away from the end of 2015 and I’ve got nothing. It settles in more and more every day: Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. “Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”
For all my love for this holiday, I have to say that 90% of the time, Christmas day is actually sort of a let down. It’s a whole lot of build up for what ends up being just kind of a mediocre day with too many calories.
But I love the anticipation of it. The waiting for a magical, wonderful day. The hope of a white Christmas. It’s a sort of giddiness that hasn’t changed since I was a kid.
But Christmas hurts this year. It’s the Advent season, the season of expectancy and hope. It’s the very thing I love about this season. But the thought of having hope and expectancy… How do I do that? When I’m still stuck wishing things just went a different way but knowing that it’ll never be? I’m not ready to hope for something else. I’m not ready to leave the idea of what could’ve been.
Here’s the thing though. The story of the season is that this God… all Holy, Majestic, Unblemished, and Mighty… He makes himself this feeble, mortal, infant baby, born into this shit-filled manger. Smack-dab in the middle of all our human mess. He’s this holy interruption to a world filled with all kinds of terrible things. Then he goes about healing people. Bringing hope and restoration to a broken world and rallying people to join in this work of restoring what has gone broke.
That’s what I want to believe: that there’s something real we can do to combat all the sadness, death, suffering, and decay of our world. That you very well can live with not just hope… but expectancy, 365 days out of the year, that something better is on the way. That we play an active part in it.
I used to be the kind of person who believed in that sort of thing. Instead, I’m just scrambling to figure out how to make it from sun up to sun down. Survival mode.
I don’t think I love Christmas just because I like all the Christmas things. I think I need it. Especially after a year like this. And it’s not just the carols and the pretty lights… it’s not the kitschy holiday things… It’s not Santa… It’s not the obscure concept of the “magic of the season” that coaxes us to blow money on unnecessary holiday themed things… even if I do buy into it.
But actually, I think there’s something distinctively magical about the season. And I do think it has to do with the songs, the decorations, and the candles. It has to do with the snow and the lights. It has something to do with the colors and the tree. It has something to do with the chance to really live it all up: that things won’t always be this way. It’s more than just warm and fuzzy feelings. It’s a promise. It’s a call to action.
What makes Christmas so special even if year after year, Christmas day isn’t all that its hyped up to be, is that it gives me space to remember that maybe not now, but some day, things are going to be different. That’s the magic right there. And it’s in the waiting. Waiting expectantly.
The Christmas tree in my living room is beautiful. Being able to sit in front of it in the dark makes me feel that childhood giddiness again. I want to be the sort of person who hopes again. The sort of person who lives expectantly and works actively for better days not just for myself, but for my neighbor as well. For that, I need Christmas. I need to believe again that God can find me in my shit-filled 2015. That He can meet me way down here. I need it for my friends who also find themselves feeling like life was a complete let down at the end of 2015.
So there’s my confession to you who don’t understand my love for this season. Is it really the most wonderful time of the year? Probably not. I don’t think it has to be. But I do need it.