Falling Apart at Advent

[Today’s guest post is one of two on the blog this week prompted by a recent Twitter exchange between Lisa Deam and Gwen Jorgensen about how life can be hard and at this time of year it can feel even harder. Lisa has lived through some truly trying Advent seasons; yet – as she shows in this post – she still hopes, and her hope encourages me. I hope it does you as well.]


Every year, my world falls apart during Advent. I’m not referring to a busy schedule or the general craziness of the holiday season. I mean that my world really falls apart. My family has had a lot of financial ups and downs, and the downs always seem to come in December. Last year at this time, my husband was between contracts. No job. No money. And no prospects on the horizon, since companies were waiting until the turn of the year to begin hiring.

This year is little better. Already struggling, we recently found out about a hefty spike in our insurance rates. I’m now looking into getting a “real” job, and I fear that my dream of writing will come to an end. As will other cherished activities, such as picking my children up from school each afternoon and volunteering in their classrooms.

I was driving down the highway last week, thinking about our financial distress and my shattered dreams, when another car cut me off. That was it. I lost it. That car became a symbol of my future coming to run me off the road. It awakened the deep-seated fear of failure I’ve been harboring for a long time.

I know in part why December days are often so dark. It’s the end of the fiscal year. For people experiencing financial insecurity (and many other people besides), it can be a hard time.

But I think there’s a bigger reason. I have a feeling it’s to remind me why Jesus came. My Twitter friend Gwen Jorgensen put it this way:

Jesus came because times are dark; he came into a world full of financial struggles and relationship problems and fear and hurt and pride. He doesn’t wave a wand and make these problems magically disappear. But he gives us hope where there was none before. He shines his light into our dark world. (John 1:4)

Saint Joseph charpentier, George de la Tour ca. 1640 (Wikipedia)

Saint Joseph charpentier, Georges de La Tour ca. 1640, depicting young Jesus shedding light on Joseph’s work in the carpenter’s shop

I wish I didn’t need such a big reminder about why Jesus came, but I’m pretty forgetful. Over and over, I’m seduced into believing I can shine my own light. Dark days teach me that I can’t even emit the faint gleam of a candle. I need the wattage of a savior!

My yearly practice of falling apart has led me to rethink a season often associated with good feelings. Maybe a “good” Advent doesn’t mean tingly anticipation or holiday cheer. Maybe it means being plunged into darkness. Maybe it means acknowledging that times are bad; that I can’t do it all; that I am, in fact, desperate. My crises have prevented me from getting ready for Christmas. But I bet I’ll be ready for Jesus.

Good Advents are not necessarily pleasant ones. I ’d rather be filled with a warm glow as I walk the road to Bethlehem. Instead, I’m walking this road in the dark.

Night sky.

No stars.

Pitch black.

The conditions are perfect for a great light to shine.


Lisa Deam writes and speaks about Christian spiritual formation from a historical perspective. She’s the author of A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps. Visit her on Twitter @LisaKDeam and at lisadeam.com. Below is one of my favorite quotes from Lisa:



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11 Responses to Falling Apart at Advent

  1. Gwen Jorgensen says:

    I love this , Lisa. Yes. The layers of problems seem to thicken, and threaten to suffocate us at this season. Yeah. Those dark days. ‘Wattage of a Savior needed’. So true.

  2. It’s so good to read your post here, Lisa. I really appreciate and can relate to your words: “Maybe it means acknowledging that times are bad; that I can’t do it all; that I am, in fact, desperate.” We had such a difficult day yesterday: besides our daughter having been up all night and unable to go to church, our son had a huge (hours-long) meltdown and by the time we got to church we felt like road kill. The host made some comment about “slowing down amid all the shopping and running around and socializing” and afterward my husband said “I couldn’t relate to that at all — I wish we had those problems.” We felt desperate — despairing even. So I appreciate this reminder that perhaps Advent is not meant to be a warm-glow type of time, but a time of darkness to which that quiet flicker of Jesus’ light comes. Thanks for being so honest in this post and giving us all permission to be honest too. (For you, though, I still hope for new dreams to be birthed and maybe even old ones to be fulfilled in His time.)

  3. Tim says:

    Lisa, thank you for sharing your writing here on the blog.

    Advent having a darkness is something I’d not thought of. I see, though, how light coming into darkness, the incarnation John speaks of when introducing Jesus to his readers, is exactly what Advent is about. We are in dark times before Jesus enters in, and nothing can overcome that darkness except his light..

  4. Annabelle says:

    I have always loved this song for Advent. Love is on His way, and He won’t pass you by.

  5. FW Rez says:

    “The conditions are perfect for a great light to shine.” Great words of encouragement! Thank you, Lisa, for sharing from your own experience. This makes me wonder if there is any worship that is more authentic than when we recognize our need for the Savior.

  6. Pingback: The Dark Storm of Advent, the Humble Light of Christmas | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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