This time of year has a magical hue, but it can be brutal to one’s inner life. Expectations, build up, performance and the wave of reality crashes… Dreams, hopes, memories, pressure and the boat tips as someone else has a different plan. One can have such hopes and seemingly feel invisible in all the noise.
This morning I am pondering light coming into the darkness. I have experienced deep grief at Christmastime, and in doing so, I have felt “off” during the season–“other.” While everyone scurries and hurries, parties, shops, and bakes, the one struggling can feel isolated and like this season just needs to be over and done with.
Fourteen years ago, we buried my sweet Daddy after a battle with Parkinson’s laced with dementia just 3 weeks before Christmas Day. We were in shock, exhausted and a bit lost. Ten years ago was the loneliest Christmas I had ever experienced as we were at the end of our fertility journey and had nothing to show for it. Children dressed for the holiday highlighted my broken heart. The “magic” of Christmas was lost on us. Last year, we rolled into Christmas depleted in every way and chose to put one foot in front of the other.
I propose that Christmas’ purpose is not for the magic and the happy and the glitz and the perfect family pictures on a card or the most creative tradition that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. We have allowed Hallmark (which I watch a good movie with the best of them) and culture and commercialism to roll out an incredibly noisy and false expectation.
Christmas, in it’s essence, is a long-awaited, oft forgotten in the midst of reality, promise of True Hope entering the world. It is El Roi, the “God who sees,” condescending to be Emmanuel, “God with us.” It is not for those who are experiencing “magic” and “happiness.” It is for those who have lost all hope. It is for those whose loneliness is all encompassing. It is for those who feel invisible. It is for those whose loss is reverberating in a cavern of heartache. It is for those who have the devastating diagnosis. It is for those who have given it all they have and are still coming up empty. That is what this Advent season points to.
It screams of a Covenant made by “I Am” that has all but been trampled on by the people but never wavered on by God. It breaks through in a forgotten small town with a teenage girl and scared man bring a baby into the world with no fanfare. It’s not a Rockefeller Center magical tree moment. It is real, dirty, painful–just like the places that are raw in your heart, the darkness you are seeing played out in your family or your job, or your secret struggle. The Angel proclaimed to the shepherds on a hill in the quiet of night. They were not “important,” but God showed us that’s exactly why He came. He came to rescue us as we are–lowly in heart, messed up, uncertain, unpolished, in great need but not even knowing it.
So, one can say “I am not in the Christmas spirit this year–it should just pass me by.” And I say–that is exactly who Christmas is for–a baby come to live the righteous life we could not live, to understand what living in our bodies and relationships is, to feel the weariness of this world, to be forsaken, to die the death under the punishment of our sin so that He might be God dwelling with Us, and to conquer death to provide a way in faith for us to know Him fully. That is good news that shatters through darkness. That is the Light of the World on display.
I encourage us that we have to slow down enough to hear the longings of our heart, to feel our ache for something more, to turn down the noise so that we can see the flicker of the True Light over the glitz of the season’s trappings. Then, we can truly celebrate the miracle, the goodness, the awe-inspiring reality of God with Us.