This Advent I’ve been enjoying short films from The Work of the People that speak of this season of waiting. They invite me to be unravelled, to hold my cup of longing and not go around it, to welcome the stranger, and to make Advent traditions that help me welcome Christ into the reality of my life.
I just finished watching O Come, Emmanuel and, though it is sad, I’m filled with a quiet, satisfied joy. Every December I’ve felt alone and misunderstood while others get into the Christmas spirit and those who don’t are labelled grinchy or depressed. But now I discover there are many people out there like me in this season–not depressed or grinchy but feeling the ache of our need for God.
This ache comes unbidden. I notice it when there’s a flow I can’t enter into yet cannot escape. It rises from a myriad of experiences that leave me convinced that I’m not enough: not kind enough, patient enough, devoted enough, not you-name-it enough. When I was younger, I’d do whatever necessary to prove it wasn’t true. But not now. I’d rather just admit it: I’m not good enough and need God to ransom me.
I knew other people were irritated too by the thought of filling that deep ache with busyness and tinsel. I thought they were few and far between, but this year they’re coming out of the woodwork. They’re writing and singing about their unfulfilled longing, bringing it to spiritual direction, taking it on retreat or to the communion rail. When I see them, like Elizabeth, something inside me leaps for joy and, like Mary, I know I’m not alone in the waiting.
So I’m jumping into the flow of kindred pilgrims and naming the Advent traditions I’ve vicariously received.
This is our Christmas tree. Fred added the one decoration: a tiny lost mitten. That says it all for me.
I’m not trying to resolve the tension between observing Advent and celebrating Christmas. I’ll attend parties and sing carols before Dec 25 and welcome the feelings evoked in the messiness and glory.
I want to slow down and take spacious days, like I did last Saturday, to allow God to name and settle my troubled soul or accompany me as I make preparations to celebrate Christ’s birth.
I’ll spend Christmas with the family and friends I’m given.
And I will give thanks for the company of my Christmas cactus still silently blooming.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Some Advent Love Mischief:
- How are you being invited to live into your unfulfilled longings?
- How is God walking with you as you hold the tension between waiting with a deep ache and preparing to celebrate the coming of Christ?
- What joy has God surprised you with this Advent?