As I decorated for Christmas this year, I cleaned and put up the lights, mason jars of holly and frosted tree branches thinking about the juxtaposition of all the places my heart could choose to land.
It is my first Christmas with my boyfriend, and his first Christmas away from his home. I can’t wait to see what this Holiday season will bring us and enjoy the memories we will make together. He is such a blessing and wonderful partner. This year feels special and I appreciate the sacrifice both he and his family are making for us to spend this year with my family. I have so much to be thankful for, and him being present in my life is one of those things.
Despite this, I feel a little depressed during this advent season. I almost feel shame in admitting that. This is the season of anticipation and preparing one’s heart for a Savior… and I feel so in need of Jesus. I have never felt disheartened at this time of year before, and while I feel I have so much to celebrate and joyfully dream, I am also very aware of where my heart is crying inside.
Nothing will be the same. This will be the first Christmas I will not wake up in my childhood home. Christmas is wrapped in tradition and memory, and all of that feels so far away. I miss my father and I cannot imagine this Christmas without Him. Last year we were still in shock, but this year we cannot wish away the reality of his absence. Where has my Christmas gone? Did it die with my father? Will I forever wonder what he would be thinking and where he would want me to place my heart?
I think of the Disciples and where their hearts must have been when our Savior was laid to rest in His tomb. The babe that once lay in a manger was now wrapped in death’s shroud. What would He want us to be thinking? Where would He want us to place our hearts in this incredible grief? How would He want us to move forward?
Being present in advent means facing and naming all of the realities that are present for you.
The incredible joy and the heartache are deserving of our attention. I tend to do the most damage to myself in the season of life that is waiting… that season of life where something is unfolding but I can’t yet see where it begins. In the in-between season I find myself in now, I have tried to reflect on when I have been in a similar place and how it turned out.
One of these seasons for myself was spent living with my grandparents while I recovered from an eating disorder. I was hard and cold and had spent all of the energy my family and friends had in them. I was terrified of what was next for me and couldn’t see the light at the end. My Grandparents took me in and nursed me back to health. They lovingly sat with me as I learned all over again how to feed and care for myself. They spent evenings with me talking about Jesus and showing me He had not abandoned me. It was such a difficult part of my life, and yet it was an incredible gift. I found life again and emerged a stronger, more passionate woman in love with my God because of it.
While we should name all of the realities in advent, we should always choose land in joy. I hope you understand I truly know how difficult life is in the in-between. The advent season seems to bring a mingling of happiness and sadness. The pull of disappointments can be alluring. However, lingering in despondency only brings more sadness. It causes us to miss the Light that shines in and through us as Christians. It distracts us from being present in the wonderful moments we wish we could remember.
Jesus came to save us from the Evil that wants to keep us ineffectual and lifeless. The time we take to reflect on this, our own advent, may seem quiet and still in its promise. That’s okay. The One that conquered death came peacefully. Life came humbly and left us all with a gentle conquering Hope. Hope is often perceived as some kind of hidden, small secret, and yet it is what keeps humanity from driving itself insane.
This year I am celebrating a first Christmas together and mourning a first real Christmas apart. I will be present in both, but I’m choosing to land in joy. Even the parts that are full of sadness are sprinkled with the Hope of a celebration to come. That Hope, the Light of the World, is where I hope we all choose to find our hearts on Christmas morning.
Anna Hull lives in San Antonio, TX. A graduate of Schreiner University with a B.A. in Religion & Political Science, Anna is passionate about finding Jesus in every day life. She enjoys unexpected adventure, making genuine connections with others, and finding beauty in chaos.