By Katie Choi
Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
I’m going to say the thing you aren’t supposed to say, Christmas is not my favorite time of year. Sure, I love to see the lights and the decorations and experiencing the fun that the season can bring, but Christmas time also brings about some past pains for me. When I was in high school, my parents separated the day after Christmas my sophomore year. It was a strange experience to go from Christmas day to feeling like my world got turned upside down. As I’ve gotten older, that pain is still there, but it looks different. I have gained perspective about my parent’s divorce and have more peace about why it happened. But, I still struggle with remembering those feelings and remembering my childhood where we were all together and knowing that it just won’t ever look like that again. Even writing this down makes my heart ache just a bit, my stomach feel a little tangled.
I go into Christmas season with an initial sense of dread. I dread having to make different plans with my dad and his side of the family and my mom and her side, wanting to make time for everyone. I dread gift buying for my dad because I don’t have a consistent relationship with him anymore so I never know what he might like or need. I dread having to feel those past, painful feelings because I know they will hit me at some point. It makes me feel weary. The expectation is to be so full of joy. I speak from my personal experience, but can you relate in some way? Do you find yourself wrestling with the expectations that Christmas time is supposed to bring but your reality falling short?
This time of year can carry a bigger meaning than me and my hurts. It can offer solace and a space of comfort.
Advent season is here. Advent might feel like an unfamiliar term, but it’s used to recognize the four weeks before Christmas. It comes from the Latin word meaning ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’, and Christians observe the time before Christmas as the ‘coming’ of Jesus. It’s okay if that description feels unfamiliar or formal even. Recognizing Advent and making space for that at Christmas time is a new thing for me in recent years. I didn’t grow up with that being the main focus of the season. I grew up recognizing Christmas time as a celebration of Jesus’ birth but not taking time to figure out what that could really mean.
Advent has helped redeem this time of year for me. It recognizes my pain and the pain of the world around me, but offers a new perspective. One theme of Advent season is to ‘Bring Light to a World of Darkness.’ ‘A world of darkness’ could feel like another one of those formal or unfamiliar or buzz type phrases that you hear. But what does that mean? If I rest with that question, I do find myself in darkness. There is darkness in broken relationships. This year in particular has had a lot of darkness with sickness, death, social injustice, political battles, and example after example of a world where things are not as they should be. And that feels really heavy.
Advent gives us hope.
Isaiah 60:19 tells us that, “The Lord will be your everlasting light.” The ‘light’. What does it mean? To me, the light is Jesus coming to a broken Earth and being the hope that won’t ever let us down. The relationship that can’t ever be broken. Jesus promises point us to a way that recognizes suffering, but also gives us a perfect love to cling to.
Making space for Advent allows us to let the light shine in the dark.
So where do you find darkness in the holiday season? Do you have pain lurking in the shadows? Look for the Light. I am praying with you and for you and wishing you peace.
Shout for joy, you heavens;
Rejoice, you earth,
Burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
And will have compassion on his afflicted ones.