The Dark Storm of Advent, a Humble Light of Christmas

[Gwen Jorgensen’s archived guest post today is a companion Advent piece to An Advent of Falling Apart, Lisa Deam’s post coming up on Friday.]

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It Happens Every Year

It happens every year. I’m no longer surprised by it, but brace myself against the rush of the dark storm at me.

Sometimes, the storm has stolen the ‘living in the moment’ from me. I cruise control and unplug till January, and find … I haven’t lived the Immanuel life, the very life we celebrate the coming of, at this time of year. I’ve usually gotten through Thanksgiving, but not always. Inevitably, though, it comes rushing at me, the storm that shouts and swirls about me, saying “This world is dark, and sad, and hurried, and desperate, and evil! You cannot carry candles here! Not allowed!”

And the message of the little Messiah in the manger? My candle flickers, falters. It’s covered up by Black Friday arguments, and competitions to lure you in best; selling is more hurry, and more worry. Then, ah, then, the lure of togetherness, of being with people you love, and celebrating the things most worth celebrating. Only trouble is, the people you dearly love, well, they’re not all in agreement about what the best way, or the most beloved things to celebrate are.  It’s covered by political ranting on all sides, by heart rending stories added to the ways your heart is already rented.

Source

Empty chairs at an empty table (Image source)

Loved ones have left, gone on. The empty chairs gaze at you from the table. It’s often covered by my battle of fatigue and pain and chronic illness of the last 27 years. The humble, simple story is dumped on by sheer busy-ness. Whether as a young mother, or mother of teens, or now an empty nester, or teacher of music students – the darkness has made it’s annual appearance. Depression, like mold, can grow in this petri dish. I know more now. I will not say it has made the battle go away, but it has made me aware of so much more.

Why the darkness, at this time of lights?

I think the dark storm rightly reflects the longing.  The longing to have it right.  The longing to know that war, hunger, despair, injustice, and poverty do not always have to be. The longing for evil to be over; the longing of restoration of a reeling, violent and angry world.

Increasingly, I know that I do not have to let the dark storm have the last word. Darkness just wants me to think it does, that’s all. The storm sharply juxtaposes itself near the flashing lights, and decking the halls, of which I am always behind.

I think it reflects, truly, the longing that Advent is.

The Humble Light of Christmas

Advent is more than lighting quiet candles.  Advent begins a fierceness of faith, that will be tried and tested, and put to walking out openness, grace and love.

It is Immanuel at work.

What’s  more, I’m learning that Immanuel goes deeper and further, and truer than I ever imagined. The storm shows the words of Christ to be not just platitudes, but a challenge to be his hands and feet.

A lifetime challenge.

If He chose to come in the most vulnerable form, to parents fleeing for their, and his very lives, in a world of politics that wanted him and everyone like him dead, wiped off the face of the earth; if Christ could walk through this dangerous, sick, angsty world, healing, touching lives, talking to people he wasn’t supposed to talk to … well, I think the light of Christmas is more humble than we could even imagine, and more powerful, if we are knowing that Immanuel is with us.

It has made the word ‘Immanuel” come alive with comfort and, yes, even a joy, though not always an earthly joy, even this time of year … when it should be rampant. I long for Advent now, in a way that grows more each year, yet, slowly, with more peace. The more I think about, and watch this, the more I see, Christ would not have told us to be a city on hill, or a light in the darkness, if he had not known he was leaving us in a dark world.  It is interior light he promised.

And what of the people who do not have Immanuel? Who do not rely on a Holy Spirit? Or worse, there are people who are suspicious or antagonistic towards my faith, or have had bad experiences with Christians.  Also, the thought comes to me of “the whole creation, longing/groaning to be restored.” (Romans 8:22.)

The storm is in need of ‘stealth grace.’ Yeah, I think that can be a thing. Christ will put the finishing touches on that, but, he left his candles here. Humble lights, if we choose. He left us walking around in our own skin, with our own fear, emotions, joys, despairs … all of it. We all walk around with different trials, joys, griefs, trials, yet the promise, is to be with us.

light-in-darknessWhen I think of who it is that is with us … when I stop my clamor and racing to keep up with the things that I must, and some I should just let go; I remember Immanuel, the one who walks beside us, when we are carrying heavy loads. Every. Single. Person. All who you see, may be carrying a very heavy load.

I’ve decided that if Christmas is ever how my idealist self wants it, it will be a total surprise.What better time, to cut some slack, give grace, be the hands and feet of Christ, even if it’s just opening a door, or giving a listening ear. “He comes to make his mercies known, far as the curse is found.” We get to be a part of that, even and especially when it’s dark.

So, may Immanuel be with you, a light to your path, and mercy to your neighbor.

Breathe Immanuel prayers to them.

***

Gwen Jorgensen describes herself as “Christ follower, living in more grace than I deserve, wife, mother, musician, music teacher. Watching the world, praying for the world; enjoying God’s gifts.” She can be found on Twitter and Facebook, and apparently hiding behind trees.

gwen-jorgensen***

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12 Responses to The Dark Storm of Advent, a Humble Light of Christmas

  1. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    So glad to read your post here again, Gwen; it’s so good. As you suggest, I think we need to be honest about our mixed emotions at Christmastime. I love your point about God’s grace being a surprise, too. It makes me think of O Little Town of Bethlehem. “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given …. where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.” Who would have thought God would change the course of history in such a subtle, surprising way. That gives me a lot of comfort. Thanks for your beautiful words.

  2. Kathy Heisleman says:

    From your pen to my heart~~just at the right time. Thank you!

  3. Anu Riley says:

    Hi, Gwen I didn’t realize this was a current post so while I replied on Facebook I hope it’s all right to copy and paste it here so you get a chance to read it and know how much it was enjoyed.

    Beautifully written and very well spoken: “Increasingly, I know that I do not have to let the dark storm have the last word.” News flash: even believers get caught up in the storms of life, the busyness and obligations of the holiday season. We struggle with depression and feeling weighed down just like anyone else.

    My personal answer has been to use the Lord’s love and grace to “shape” the holiday to make it real and special–because He is real and special. Being His light means it’s “His” light, so let Him handle the switch. He knows how to make His children shine just right. It doesn’t negate any pain you are living with. It’s a way to not let the darkness have the final word in your life.

    I apply this to holidays like Valentine’s Day, which is so hyper focused on “romantic” love that even as a married person, sickens me. The Bible seems to prize friendship as the greatest form of love (John 15:13) yet all the mush and gush is saved for couples. Lovely single, divorced, widowed women are often left out. Send or give flowers or a card or a lovely letter to such persons. Bring them cupcakes. This holiday should belong to them, too, IMO.

    • Gwen Jorgensen says:

      Thank you, Anu. Yes. I like that. Let God handle the switch. We forget these are precious souls, in front of that, and we can be conduits of that grace. I love your well-expressed thoughts. Thanks, for taking the time to post here.

      • Anu Riley says:

        You have a great gift for writing. I didn’t have time to speak to everything that I liked from your article, but it really impressed upon me how family dynamics, if dysfunctional and/or divided (yes, even among Christian families!) can make holidays extra difficult. It was very generous of you to point that out, because it’s not a topic that gets talked about among believers. We are often tempted or expected to put on happy faces during this season and hold everything inside for the sake of putting on a good show. No disrespect intended to those who do have truly happy families.

        My personal answer to family division has been to look for ways to insert the Lord’s goodness, or cling hard to His goodness if things get particularly hard. And keep looking for His goodness; I believe it will appear in unexpected ways. Much like the Lord Himself being born in a small town no one had barely heard of. The shepherds certainly didn’t know a star would appear to them. “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”” Matthew 4:16

        • Gwen Jorgensen says:

          Thank you so much for reading, thinking, offering your impressions, and your encouragement.

  4. Pingback: An Advent of Falling Apart | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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  6. JYJames says:

    Thanks for sharing. “When I think of Who it is that is with us…” – God sent His Son, Jesus. Lovely thought.

    When our children were young (just starting school), they came to us and asked to NOT do gifts and decorations for Christmas – we have each other, they said, which is what God gave us – presence (not presents). So that was it, and ever since.

    Unmet expectations is the #1 issue in marriage struggles. Expectation for the birth of Christ was: our Messiah. Shepherds and kings had their expectations fulfilled. (Back then, but later, Jesus on the cross was probably the ultimate of unmet expectations for His followers. They struggled.)

    Here’s to a fulfilled Christmas for all.

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