O come, O come
It doesn't feel like Christmastime is here.
Actually, I'm not exactly sure for what I am waiting. I went to sleep last night listening to the howl of the winter wind whipping the wet prairie snow around. This is what Bing keeps singing about, right?
I recently realized that, for me, the reason I never think it "feels like Christmas" (whatever that means) is because I am now an adult. I no longer live at home where my Mom takes care of all that stuff. If I want to eat Christmas cookies I am the one who has to make them. Bummer. So there's that.
But it's also this thing I have with Americans acting like crazy people this time of year (myself included), all the while saying this is the happiest time of the year? This is supposed to be a time of peace, joy and hope, right? But it's like we're all trying really hard to feel those things without actually trying to make them a reality in our own lives. We just go to the mall.
I'm honestly not trying to be a hater. Seriously. (I am actually on my way home to North Carolina as I write this, which is, by far, the best thing about my holidays this year).I think I am just longing for something authentic.
One of my favorite Christmas song is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I really like this version by Ellery because there is element of darkness needing light and a desire for something mist in the despair. That, for me, is what rings true the most during this season.
I let things weigh me down. Even dumb things that aren't real. I can't believe I am admitting this in a public space because this show is so violent, but lately I've been watching The Walking Dead with a friend. This show (which is about a zombie apocalypse) showcases human nature at its worst, like Lord of the Flies style. (It's interesting though, which is why I keep watching). Anyway, after a super depressing episode (for which any episode could probably qualify) my friend and I had a brief conversation about how that show makes me feel terrible about life. I have a hard time watching humans at their very worst. I can't remember exactly what we talked about, but whatever he said it made me very aware that some people, like the folks living in Syria are currently living in a situation where human beings are behaving at their worst. In real life. It gave me very heavy boots, but it did give me a dose of perspective. I often can't see realities outside my own.
The thing is I want to people to care about Syria. I want people to care about Palestine. I want people to care about global warming. I want people to care about where their food comes from. But I also realize that I want to care about these things, and so often I do not.
The other day, I was on my lunch break at work, flipping through the latest issue of Newsweek when I started reading an article about pasta production, wheat, oil, global warming and the drought that is still plaguing the country. I had to stop because I almost started crying (and I really don't want to be that person at work).
Now that Kansas isn't 100 degrees, I often forget that we are still in a drought. Why? Because, despite the drought, nothing about my life has changed. Water still comes out of the tap. I still take long showers because it is hard to get out when our house is so cold. It is not a reality in my life because I can choose to not pay attention to it. And that realization (of that realization) weighs me down.
And then the shooting in Connecticut, which felt the most real when I talked with my sister (who is a 1st grade teacher) about it.
And I am supposed to put up some holly and feel jolly and sing peace on earth goodwill towards all? This is the most wonderful time of the year?
Some days, it feels too hard.
That's why turning off the lights during church to sing O Come O Come Emmanuel is the only thing that feels real for me during this season. For years now, that verse in Isaiah (9:2) that says "a people walking in darkness have seen a great light" constantly rings in my head all during advent. Again and again I come back to that. What a lovely image: people who have been stumbling around for so long have finally, finally seen light, seen hope. Something that was just a desire has finally become reality. A flicker of something better in the midst of tragedy.
That is what I want. I want the reality of Christ's kingdom to be true in my life. I want that light to be true for others. I want that light to rescue us from ourselves. I want that light to rescue me.
The trick is, how do I make that ring true in my everyday life and during the darkest time of the year?
I don't know how to fix the conflicts in the middle east, the problems of our warming planet, the crisis on our plates. or about what policy will best keep mad men from shooting up children. But what I can do is face the violence and the evil that resides inside myself. And I can hold on to hope.
This advent, I celebrate Christ coming to earth, but I also join in the longing - that I might know the power of Christ in my own life and that I might figure out how to share that light with others.
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by Thy advent here.
Dispearse the gloomy clouds night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.