How Can I Look Towards Christmas?

TW: Christianity, Swearing

Starting Advent, looking toward Christmas, is hard for many people this year. It’s easy to feel like our world is broken. It would be easy to just say “Fuck this shit!” I don’t blame anyone who does. There have been moments that I’ve said that with full passion and conviction when I just can’t find the strength to keep hoping and working and trying.

Whether on the personal or the global level, it’s easy to see pain and wonder how that could possibly connect with singing “Joy to the World” or “Silent Night.” How can we watch Rudolph, listen to Christmas music, or put up lights when our hearts hurt?

XMas Lights on black background from Flickr via Wylio
LadyDragonflyCC, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

For me the pain is layers of personal and societal. I hurt for missing my dad. I desperately miss him. I miss knowing that Christmas will come with his jokes about the real tree vs a fake tree, his enjoyment of my husband’s signature Christmas Eve margaritas, his voice singing Christmas songs as Christmas Eve mass, throwing wrapping paper at him as we open presents,  the good natured ribbing as he and my mom try to remember which wrapped gifts are for which recipient, the Star Trek books he’d give me that I’d share with him after reading so that we could talk about the characters we still loved more than a decade after they went off the air, the looks of love shared between him and my mom as they exchange their Christmas presents — both clearly delighting in having found gifts that brought joy to their beloved. I can’t think for more than a minute or two before I start crying. It’s hard to focus on the joy of those memories, of the joy of Dad’s clear faith and belief, of the joy of my imperfect family sharing love and laughter and our traditions of burritos, oplatek, cheese plates, and Mannheim Steamroller.

I hurt for wanting to hope for my own health. I won’t know for six months and I know that worrying does no good, but it’s a struggle to not focus on that. It’s a worthy struggle to find my inner optimist and have faith that everything, no matter what the six month scan shows, will be alright in the end — even if it’s alright in a way I cannot possibly imagine.

I hurt for friends dealing with personal difficulties and stresses related to divorce, jobs, children, and more. They’re not my stories, but I hate that people I love are in pain.

I hurt for the world and for my country. I hurt for the individuals so ashamed of their vote that they act as cowards and stick their heads in the sand, refusing to take any action to help the people already being harmed and harassed because of the vote they chose to make in determined ignorance of the facts that were plain to see. I hurt for my friends who are any sort of not heteronormative straight white people. I fear that my friends who are witnessing harassment will be harassed or harmed themselves. I fear that friends who are public school teachers will witness the destruction of public schools in the United States by people who have no understanding of the need for public education. I see pain and hate in the world and it’s easy to question how that connects with Christmas stockings and trees covered in lights and ornaments.

But, those stocking and trees are just part of Christmas. Christmas is also about three magi bringing gifts fit for royalty to a poor family huddled in a stable outside an inn in a major city of an occupied country. Christmas is also about God asking for faith that things will turn out okay in a way no one really imagined.

Christmas is also about hope coming not in the form of one who was powerful, but in the form of a squalling baby born to a Jewish family seeking shelter and care while travelling against their will, living under the rule of a powerful occupying country. It would have been easy to look at the young pregnant woman and her husband, huddled in the straw, and say that their lives would be hopeless. It would have been easy for Mary or Joseph to give up their faith. Maybe for a few minutes between Mary’s saddle sores or Joseph’s blistered feet, as they were unable to find an actual room, as they prepared for Mary to give birth without any help in the straw, surrounded by animals, maybe they did find their faith dimming. If so, that’s okay. They still came together for the birth of a baby who would change the world and bring hope to the hopeless. They welcomed shepherds and foreign wise men. They found hope in a situation many of us would have called hopeless.

I’m not saying that makes everything okay, or means I’ll be able to jump both feet into Christmas this year, but it’s what I’ll keep coming back to. Christmas is about hope coming from what can seem like hopeless circumstances.

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” — Matthew 24:44

Maybe that also means that hope can be found when we least expect it. That’s something my dad would have gotten behind. He always said that there was something good around the corner, just often enough to keep him believing. I’m going to choose to try to be hopeful, even when it’s hard.

–Inspired by #FuckThisShit/#RendTheHeavens Advent Devotional Calendar by @crazypastor and @tvrasche, though admittedly a few days late. The passage from November 27 is one that has been rattling in my head ever since I discovered this as a way into Advent that my tired heart not only could handle, but seems to have needed.

 

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