[Gwen Jorgensen’s guest post today is a companion Advent piece to Falling Apart at Advent, Lisa Deam’s post Monday.]
It Happens Every Year
It happens every year. I’m no longer surprised by it, but brace myself against the rush of the dark storm at me.
Sometimes, the storm has stolen the ‘living in the moment’ from me. I cruise control and unplug till January, and find … I haven’t lived the Immanuel life, the very life we celebrate the coming of, at this time of year. I’ve usually gotten through Thanksgiving, but not always. Inevitably, though, it comes rushing at me, the storm that shouts and swirls about me, saying “This world is dark, and sad, and hurried, and desperate, and evil! You cannot carry candles here! Not allowed!”
And the message of the little Messiah in the manger? My candle flickers, falters. It’s covered up by Black Friday arguments, and competitions to lure you in best; selling is more hurry, and more worry. Then, ah, then, the lure of togetherness, of being with people you love, and celebrating the things most worth celebrating. Only trouble is, the people you dearly love, well, they’re not all in agreement about what the best way, or the most beloved things to celebrate are. It’s covered by political ranting on all sides, by heart rending stories added to the ways your heart is already rented.
Loved ones have left, gone on. The empty chairs gaze at you from the table. It’s often covered by my battle of fatigue and pain and chronic illness of the last 27 years. The humble, simple story is dumped on by sheer busy-ness. Whether as a young mother, or mother of teens, or now an empty nester, or teacher of music students – the darkness has made it’s annual appearance. Depression, like mold, can grow in this petri dish. I know more now. I will not say it has made the battle go away, but it has made me aware of so much more.
Why the darkness, at this time of lights?
I think the dark storm rightly reflects the longing. The longing to have it right. The longing to know that war, hunger, despair, injustice, and poverty do not always have to be. The longing for evil to be over; the longing of restoration of a reeling, violent and angry world.
Increasingly, I know that I do not have to let the dark storm have the last word. Darkness just wants me to think it does, that’s all. The storm sharply juxtaposes itself near the flashing lights, and decking the halls, of which I am always behind.
I think it reflects, truly, the longing that Advent is.
The Humble Light of Christmas
Advent is more than lighting quiet candles. Advent begins a fierceness of faith, that will be tried and tested, and put to walking out openness, grace and love.
It is Immanuel at work.
What’s more, I’m learning that Immanuel goes deeper and further, and truer than I ever imagined. The storm shows the words of Christ to be not just platitudes, but a challenge to be his hands and feet.
A lifetime challenge.
If He chose to come in the most vulnerable form, to parents fleeing for their, and his very lives, in a world of politics that wanted him and everyone like him dead, wiped off the face of the earth; if Christ could walk through this dangerous, sick, angsty world, healing, touching lives, talking to people he wasn’t supposed to talk to … well, I think the light of Christmas is more humble than we could even imagine, and more powerful, if we are knowing that Immanuel is with us.
It has made the word ‘Immanuel” come alive with comfort and, yes, even a joy, though not always an earthly joy, even this time of year … when it should be rampant. I long for Advent now, in a way that grows more each year, yet, slowly, with more peace. The more I think about, and watch this, the more I see, Christ would not have told us to be a city on hill, or a light in the darkness, if he had not known he was leaving us in a dark world. It is interior light he promised.
And what of the people who do not have Immanuel? Who do not rely on a Holy Spirit? Or worse, there are people who are suspicious or antagonistic towards my faith, or have had bad experiences with Christians. Also, the thought comes to me of “the whole creation, longing/groaning to be restored.” (Romans 8:22.)
The storm is in need of ‘stealth grace.’ Yeah, I think that can be a thing. Christ will put the finishing touches on that, but, he left his candles here. Humble lights, if we choose. He left us walking around in our own skin, with our own fear, emotions, joys, despairs … all of it. We all walk around with different trials, joys, griefs, trials, yet the promise, is to be with us.
When I think of who it is that is with us … when I stop my clamor and racing to keep up with the things that I must, and some I should just let go; I remember Immanuel, the one who walks beside us, when we are carrying heavy loads. Every. Single. Person. All who you see, may be carrying a very heavy load.
I’ve decided that if Christmas is ever how my idealist self wants it, it will be a total surprise.What better time, to cut some slack, give grace, be the hands and feet of Christ, even if it’s just opening a door, or giving a listening ear. “He comes to make his mercies known, far as the curse is found.” We get to be a part of that, even and especially when it’s dark.
So, may Immanuel be with you, a light to your path, and mercy to your neighbor.
Breathe Immanuel prayers to them.
Gwen Jorgensen describes herself as “Christ follower, living in more grace than I deserve, wife, mother, musician, music teacher. Watching the world, praying for the world; enjoying God’s gifts.” She can be found on Twitter and Facebook, and apparently hiding behind trees.