Black Friday — the onset of one of the most heart-involved seasons of the year. Today is the day where everyone gives everyone else “permission” to celebrate the holiday season. It’s the day, for me, when Christmas starts racing toward us and I pull out every decoration, old vinyl and Christmas colored thing I own. This year is quiet for us — free of travel plans, drama, extraneous stress. It’s shaping up to be a simple season for us.
But I know this is not always the case — not forever, not for everyone. I’ve had the Thanksgivings and Christmases where it all felt empty. It felt robotic and fake. I hung ornaments, bought presents, made turkey and listened to Bing Crosby and I felt nothing.
No magic. No wonder. No spirit.
I remember the Christmas Eve when I cried myself to sleep. I remember the Christmas morning when the one who I loved the most forgot to wrap my presents, and I sat alone waiting for him, waiting for the feeling, waiting for the magic. I remember the year that I was a new single mom. I had no money, no budget, and a broken tree filled with broken dreams, and my broken heart tried to tape and glue it all back together while my two year old toddled around the room.
I haven’t experienced every kind of loss, pain and disappointment, but my heart has felt loss, pain and grief, and I’ve felt them all during this season.
But I also know there’s joy. I know there’s good here too.
So here are my brief words for you today as the Christmas season starts in, the advertisers try to eek every last dollar out of your wallet, memories remind you of what could have been, and maybe the fears of what might be feel overwhelming.
I decided to come here today with words of hope. Some words to remind you that your heart might be heavy, but the Gospel is still light. Advent is not for those who have their lives together — Advent is for all of us who are still waiting. Advent is the story of a God who sees all the details, catches our tears in bottles, breaks bread with us, and cries with us at graves we never wanted to stand by. Advent is for celebrating, for joy, for the cries of new life and the places of warmth and comfort when we thought for sure we’d be left out in the cold. Advent is for all of us.
Free Printables — (Simply click on the image to get the pdf!)
Tolkien said “If we all valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, this would be a merrier world.” When it feels like everyone else is hoarding gold this season, value something else. Sing a different song. Break bread with the broken. Bring cheer to the brokenhearted. Hoard something that can’t be hoarded because it only multiplies.
A few weeks ago, our own Melissa Green blogged a beautiful song referencing Julian of Norwich’s prayer “God of Your goodness give me Yourself, for You are enough for me now…All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.” This season, if you’re staring at uneven seas, if your heart is anything but merry and bright, let this prayer lead you through the dark — “In your love all things are made new, please remind me still.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, one of my favorite poets (of all time), penned these words. “Everything terrible is something that needs our love.” I want to remember this as I get weary, annoyed with family, tired of my own weaknesses, and exhausted with all the strain of living in a messed up world. Where can I love this season, turning the terrible into beauty?
Our own Troy Bronsink wrote about “Learning from Beauty” last month. He wrote this and my heart whispered a quiet yes because beauty is one of those things you can’t hold on to. As Troy said its “Freed to gracefully reveal to you who you are and who you are becoming.” This season, try and let some of the real beauty reach you. Beyond the lights and sounds, presents and meals, movies and such — find the beauty (because its always somewhere) and let it do its work.
Today my prayer for you is more than just four printables and some Black Friday standard Christmas wishes. I pray you are surprised by joy this year. That today, your heart and soul can breathe deep and give thanks all over again. And that at some point, you can find yourself giving back the song “which now the angels sing.”