It could be a symptom of getting older. It could be the transition of becoming a parent. It could be spiritual realities finally breaking through to the depths of my heart. It could be pregnancy hormones. In any case, I’ve yet to make it through a Sunday in Advent without crying. Usually at least once during the music in church; then again sometime mid-afternoon. To quote our current series at church, I’m a Christmess.
Surprisingly, the better the week, the more difficult the Sunday. As I’m able to celebrate more and more good things in our life, come Sunday I’m overwhelmed with an ache. A hurt. As if the advent season digs up this internal reality of the understanding that we’re waiting and holding on for something… more. Something substantial, better than any blessing for which we’ve already given thanks. The penultimate “something more.”
And now we can add in a tragedy, all these feelings and a sense of grief over the children in Connecticut. The event deepened an existing feeling that I’ve felt in my bones this whole season… God, we need you a little bit closer.
Today during the cantada a verse of We Three Kings struck me (and thus I subsequently cried), about the Magi following the light. I looked it up. After they had heard the king, [the Magi] went on their way and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11)
In the midst of the song, the reality I’ve cried over sunk from within my heart down deeper, down toward somewhere close to my liver… it’s in the darkness that we can recognize the light. Oh, how we dislike the dark. We stumble around like a bunch of bafoons, killing each other, blaming each other, or even just knocking into one another by accident. We feel pain but don’t realize that we can’t see the truth in front of us until the light begins to break.
The most difficult part, the part that turns on round two of the tears, comes when I can’t seem to find the way to point toward the light. To be the light. All afternoon I’ve struggled, wanting to partake in an activity with the kids to help celebrate the meaning of Christmas. I want to show them what it means to be light in darkness, that Emmanuel is more than a song. A quote by Rob Bell came to mind: Why blame the dark for being dark? It’s far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be
. (Velvet Elvis
I believe that part of my Sunday misery arises from the fact that each week I come face-to-face with the fact that I’m not always living as the light. Often I’m not pointing toward a guiding star. I spend some time pointing to the darkness and stating reasons why, but I rarely light a candle and visit a neighbor.
Specifically I feel powerless in the face of recent tragedy. I cannot bring children back. I will not tell others stupid pithy sayings like God “needed” angels or that it was in His plan. God never plans to hurt his people.
I’m rereading for (14th hundreth time) A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and I just came to the part where Don tells of a friend who was ready to give up on God. This friend then visited Rwanda as an effort to learn more about the atrocities that had happened there. She visited a church museum where several people hid in an effort to be safe, believing they wouldn’t be killed in a church. They were wrong and instead the entire group was massacred. Don’s friend said she stood on the brink of telling God goodbye, that this was where they parted ways. And in that moment, God spoke to her in her heart saying, “This is what happens when people walk away from me.”
Darkness is dark when no one shines a light.
Thus, the tears again. God, I want people to know light is available. There is always another way. A kingdom reigning with grace and forgiveness and love exists if someone would just pass a candle. If I would just lift my torch just a little higher.
But what does that look like? Not in a Jesus-will-make-your-problems-disappear way. But in a God-is-with-us, right here, right now kind of way. Will a plate of cookies show my neighbors that in the light, we see the world as God created it? Will a gift card speak to my mailman so he will know that in the light, we can see the goodness, not just feel our pain? Will the wrapped packages under the tree remind my family that in the light, we recognize our company and realize that we are not alone?
My Sundays struggle because I know that to show people something more, I must do something more. Not buy something more, but show, in action, God’s presence in the world. I believe God’s presence is alive in my life – how does that seep into the way I live my life with others? God, show me what that looks like right here and right now.