I like reposting this blog post which I wrote 5 years ago now. It sums up so much of Advent for me and is really for all those who are battling through the early years of small people. It gets better, it changes, but here are some things that still keep me warm on cold dark December nights. (frustratingly my ache for friends not to be going through dark times, more clarity for my lovely brother and family and world peace are still things high on my shouting at God for more of list.) Also it kind of proves that I only have one idea about joy as lots of this made it into my talk yesterday morning.
And so we’ve made it, to the last Sunday in Advent, to the end of term and the start of the holidays. We’ve made it to this strange land of Christmas. To be honest I’m not feeling it this year. I’m too much in a haze, my brain exploding with thoughts of moving house (don’t get me started on how odd and surprising that feels right now) and the weirdness of not having slept for more than 2 hours in a row for 10 weeks.
Christmas feels a far away event, something to be gazed at through frosted panes of glass. However, the myriad of fairy lights outside houses around our city reminds me that something is happening. Son1 points out to me the characters in the nativity daily: kingandkingandshepherdandmaryjosephanddonkeyandcamelandpresentandpresent
andbabyjesus. There is something going on, however remote it feels.
There is something going on which helps make sense of this strange walking through treacle land I find myself in, which helps me keep on plodding through the dark.
It’s that old word again, Emmanuel. God with us. God with man is now residing. The Maker of all has stepped into the darkness and the darkness doesn’t know what to do. In the midst of aching hearts, weary bodies and confusing times we have a God who knows what it’s like to be in our shoes.
John1:14 says it all:
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us
The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us.
Son1 has read his beginners bible book about the cross so many times (so much that I am sick of it…which feels wrong…) that every time he sees a cross shape he pronounces loudly that ‘Jesus died on the cross’. Interestingly he then recites his own little narrative of what happened next: ‘then fall down, then Jesus cry, then Jesus sad’. It’s the same narrative he recites when he has hurt himself. ‘E fall down, then E cry, then E sad.’ He’s teaching me something of what it means for Jesus to be human. Jesus knows everything my little weirdo toddler has been through and has been through it himself. He knows our pain and he came to ultimately do something about it and about our immediate problem which oddly is bigger than our pain.
The trouble is I don’t think there is a problem bigger than my pain. I just want sleep, I want my mates not to go through what they are going through, I want a clear and certain future for my brother and his family. I want world flipping peace whilst we are at it. I’m with the Jews- give me a messiah who is going to sort my immediate situation out. What’s the use if he doesn’t?
What could be more important?
And this is where the words get weak and frail and I can’t really believe them as I write. Apparently we do have a bigger problem. A rift between the Creator and Created that needs to be healed. A new creation that needs to be kick started. Life and death stuff that the birth, life and death of a baby 2000 years ago dealt with.
There are reasons for rejoicing in the mess and uncertainty of this world but I think it’s a minor key kind of rejoicing. There is a Saviour. There is hope. There is a final day when all the sad will be made untrue but there is a whole lot of confusion and pain right now that doesn’t get sorted out. It’s a wintery joy. A pale sun shining through winter trees showing the hope of summer in the chill of winter.
That’s all I’ve got right now, a whole load of confusion, mess and fear. Winter is around.
But the seasons change. I don’t understand many things but I cling to the hope of the tender mercy of our God. A God I do not understand and cannot feel right now, but a God who took on flesh, who fell down and cried and was sad. He’s here. Emmanuel. And so we rejoice in that minor key of weary hope.
Emmanuel has come to us.
Emmanuel is here.
And so we have Sufjan Stevens and his rather wintery singing of O Come O Come Emmanuel.
(Rather entertainingly son1 also likes to wander around the house singing Rejoice, Rejoice, Samuel is here… that would bring a whole different meaning to Christmas eh…)