This Christmas season, I don’t have much holly or jolly. The Christmas music countdown on my wall didn’t encourage me to listen to Christmas music. I’ve been avoiding Christmas movies and the Hallmark channel like the plague. Even my desire to look at Christmas lights is alarmingly low.
My feelings are conflicting. I want to be joyful and jam in the car to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and make cookies and sing “Joy to the World” in church with a big smile on my face. But considering the last two months of my life, it just feels like faking it.
Feeling the weight of weariness
For the first time in my entire life, I think I have finally felt the weight of the Advent season, sticking with me in the lyrics of “O Holy Night”:
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices”
Winter is a time of seasonal depression. Holidays give lots of people anxiety and remind us of loved ones who have been lost – traditions that will have to be carried on in spite of their absence. The hustle and bustle of the season just isn’t set up right to welcome in “a thrill of hope” that is baby Jesus.
Scholars believe that there was originally no connection between advent and Christmas. It was celebrated in January for the arrival of the magi to Jesus, transitioned to the anticipation of Jesus’ second coming, and eventually made its way to December1-December 24. While Israel would have anticipated Christ’s first coming, we reflect on the gift of Christ’s birth and live into the anticipation of his second coming. (Commonly known as the “already but not yet”).
I believe the weather and uncomfiness fit the season of Advent oddly well. I feel a sort of discord and tension in my body that I can’t quite name, but it helps me look at the Christmas story and imagine the tension of Mary and Joseph’s story. A virgin birth. An engagement viewed by others as broken. The savior of the world given in an unexpected way to do unexpected things. A beautiful paradox.
Expecting the unexpected
Isaiah 9: 6-7 prophesied Jesus’ arrival. We spent time looking at this passage at camp this summer because we really liked the expectations that it gave the people of Israel and the contrast to the way Jesus did come: the beautiful paradox.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
I actually quite enjoy my discomfort. Another gentle reminder of the point of the season. Jesus didn’t come at a time when everyone was happy and stringing up lights and singing joyfully. He came to a weary world in order to save it.
I find advent as a gentle reminder of where to put my hope: in a small baby who would one day cover all of my sins to save me from them. A simple season of anticipation of what’s to come – in my own life and for the world. A time to reflect on what God has done in my life and hope and pray for what He will do. Advent may be my new favorite season of the Christian calendar.
Photo credit: Elisabeth Giovannucci