It’s four days till Christmas. I’ve pulled out my Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer socks, I’ve wrapped all my presents, listened to my fair share of a cappella carols, and watched more sappy made-for-TV Christmas movies than I care to admit, and yet… it just isn’t feeling a lot like Christmas. I think a big contributor to this lackluster holiday is that Jack Frost isn’t nipping at my nose. I’ve been dreaming, hoping, wishing for a white Christmas, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards this year.
More than that, my heart seems to have been reflecting the weather lately. Mostly grey and dreary, inconsistently sunny, but not doing what I’d been hoping. There’s this expectation, (mostly internally) to enter into this nostalgic celebration and to reconnect with a sense of reverence and joyful anticipation that Advent embodies. Despite my half-hearted attempts to get in the Christmas spirit, all does not feel merry and bright…
The disequilibrium–when my emotions don’t match my intentions used to cause a lot more angst. I would try to white-knuckle my way to feeling what I thought I was “supposed to.” I’m much more wary of those “shoulds” now– recognizing them from off in the distance- bearing the heavy burden of shame and bringing exhaustion in the pretending. But this year, I’m observing this phenomenon with less judgement and more observation.
I desire to enter into the season of Advent with genuine longing and celebration. I want to answer the invitation to “let every heart prepare him room.” What does it look like to engage with that when my heart is made up of fickle emotions, or lack thereof– behaving more like my cat when she’s being aloof– staring nonchalantly from across the room, but darting into the distance when I try to come close. I can’t force my cat to respond the way I want her to, nor can I seem to coerce my emotions to come on command. It requires patience, not paying attention and maybe if I sit still long enough they will come close.
Advent is about remembering to the point of celebration that our rescuer came to be with us, and remembering to the point of longing that He’s promised to come again. And if our finite and fickle hearts could glimpse the depth of this astounding truth, it would change everything.
I can write those words, believe them even, and still feel stuck in the numbness of familiarity that comes each Christmas. However, rather than that honest admittance to myself and you dear reader causing a downward spiral into Not-Enough-ness, I can trust that Immanuel means he came close so that I didn’t need to rely on my own feelings or actions to draw me close.
I heard someone a few weeks back talking about Peace in Advent– A buzzword in this season and something our hearts are longing for, balm for a world reeling from violence and discord. A lack of peace felt so deeply globally, relationally, internally, especially during this time of year.
But peace is not a transcendent sentiment that we see on glittering Christmas cards, nor is it an abstract place we strive to arrive at through perfection and control. Peace is a person.
A human who humbled himself and became nothing. A real person, not a doe-eyed, pristine white baby next to some docile donkeys on a two-dimensional flannelboard in your Sunday School memories, but a living person who is still Immanuel, just as much as he was in that small town in the Middle East all those years ago. And God With Us is also named the Prince of Peace. And he’s pursuing this fickle heart of mine, even now, four days before Christmas. And in the reminding myself of that, I can let go and enter into the moment, contradictions and all. Enter towards the one who came to be with me.