And so Advent slowly silently slips into the room. Yesterday we put our Christmas Tree up, I think the earliest we have ever done that. Yesterday I shed tears for the lack this year, for the grief, for the difference in feelings, for the weary resignation to realising that again it is Advent. My body has given up at the moment, whether a virus or exhaustion I can do very little without being wiped out and having to sit down. I am listening, I am listening oh tired body of mine. I pull away from the comparisons of capacity, the feeling that I should keep going, that stopping is a privilege so I shouldn’t do it. I pull away and lean into what I would tell you reading this, listen to what your body is saying, my body seemed to be screaming loudly in my ears last week and it took a hospital trip to convince me stopping is what is needed.
And so I sit and put Christmas music on the stereo, I wrap myself in the old old story, I dig out my Advent reflection books, I read of what Advent means. I have always loved this season and I’m starting to slowly realise this year that there isn’t one fixed meaning we must fit ourselves into (it is a made up season after all, make of it what you will, there isn’t a right way to do this…).
Advent does different things in me each year.
Advent when the eldest was tiny put me back together as my identity lay shattered in pieces, Advent that year reminded me of who I was, who I have always been and the things that did not change in this new world of holding a baby.
Advent in the years of Husbandface’s super ill health provided me with a fixed point where I could fall apart, a time of aching and longing for the day when all the sad things come untrue, for when Jesus would sweep us up into the new creation and we could all stop with the groaning and pain. I needed the sure certain hope that resurrection would come, that Jesus would come back, that this pain wasn’t all there is. It was a hope that carried me into each new year. I needed Advent as a storing up for the year to come, reminders that there is a deeper story which transforms the daily grind.
Advent in my 20s was full of confidence in those external realities, a reminder time and again that there was light in my winter dark, that my depression was not the end of me, that God was with me in loneliness, in change and in the tangles of my mind and soul. Emmanuel poured into my heart, and brought clarity and light.
I wonder what Advent will mean for me in 2020. Yesterday on church my lovely colleague Sam thought about God with us in Hope and what it meant for Mary to carry hope around with her as a present reality rather than just a future. I love that image. If hope means anything I think it flies into today and transforms the light of the day, even if the circumstances don’t change. Carrying hope around brings something transcendent into the now, however small that might feel.
I want to carry Hope around with me this year. I need to carry Hope around with me as I rest, as I seek to make space for others to experience this Hope, as I try and love my boys through their fights and giant emotions, as I reach out to others despite the difficulties of doing that this year. Emmanuel is always my favourite word to walk with in Advent, the God of creation, over all nations, the One who plays in 10,000 places come to earth to be with us, to walk a new path for us to follow, to burn into the future so we know there is more to come.
Emmanuel says right now today God is here, however foggy the view is, however weary our bones are. Emmanuel doesn’t demand for us to keep on pushing through to beyond our ability. Emmanuel sits down at the road besides us and gives us food, water and shelter. Emmanuel says, Here I am, come and drink in some strength and refreshment.
I wonder what Advent means for you this year? Which part of the waiting and wondering do you need? Which part of the Christmas story will you carry around to breathe hope into your bones and walk you into another year of life?
As ever I shall be daily blogging, seeking the wonder in each day, not to display a perfect life but to dig through the shadows of my mind to find the hope, to remind myself of the Christ who plays in 10,000 places and to enjoy some joy in a very different Advent season, do come along for the ride…