[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)
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.
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: