This has been a difficult year for me. Not in external ways, mind you. I’ve been blessed with new opportunities, good health and wonderful friends. God has provided for us financially, and the church has been graced with a hardworking, gifted pastor after a long period of instability. But in some deeper places of my life, places I won’t necessarily dig into at a blog called “only slightly unhinged”, things have been difficult. I was a little ambivalent about the approach of the holidays for that very reason. So often at Christmas time we reflect on and celebrate what a wonderful year it’s been. As we passed Thanksgiving I worried that my Advent/Christmas season would be ruined by….well, the distinct absence of jolliness in my spirit.
But can I tell you something strange? This has been the most meaningful Advent season I’ve experienced in years. Somehow the emotional achiness of recent months has been transformed into a sweet, lovely longing for the Messiah. The prayers I might have rushed through in another year – prayers for His deliverance, His aid, His light – has been prayed with real urgency. Today, as I prayed the last of the “O Antiphons” prayers to “Emmanuel, Desire of the Nations”, I truly knew that desire in my own heart.
In some Advent seasons I’ve been very intentional about fighting the consumerist trappings of the holidays. You can ask the friends and family who’ve been harangued by me over how much the average family spends at Christmas. In other years I’ve been agitated about the proper stance to take on Santa Claus when talking to our children. This year I haven’t really had the emotional energy for either of those fights. And yet, in my depleted state, the Messiah has come close. Jesus often seems to draw up alongside the poor in spirit. When we’re at the end of our campaigns, when we’re too tired to go change the world for Him, when we’re feeling disappointed in ourselves yet again – suddenly we find that God is with us. And I wouldn’t trade that realization for anything, even though it comes in my weakness.
O Emmanuel, Desire of the Nations, Savior of all peoples. Come and live with your people, Lord our God. Amen.