the hopes & fears of all the years
Merry Christmas, dear friends. I'm not entirely sure when the calendar flipped over to December, or when the temperatures dropped enough for me to see sweet steam when I breathe, or when seemingly everyone in the world but me had their lives together enough to decorate their homes for this holiday season.
These last few months have been achingly hard - high highs and the lowest of lows, this swinging pendulum that is my wandering heart never seems to settle enough. And yet all of the sudden it's Christmas and it feels like these cherished days are moving way too fast.
I've felt unusually somber this Advent season. Maybe it's the fact that we're still not-quite-comfortable in our new church home, or our new home all together. Maybe it's that we can - for the first time - identify with the sad old refrain "I'll be home for Christmas." Perhaps it's that the last few weeks have been so crammed with final exams, papers, and last-minute present making that I feel a million miles away from my husband and my home.
I told Price the other day that for some reason, this Advent season has felt heavy. I'm in the middle of writing an Easter devotional/book for work, and have been steeped in the realities of Christ's death and resurrection, trying to understand them anew in my own heart, and then trying to find ways to convey that brilliant, life-changing, difficult meaning to starry-eyed little children. I just can't seem to view the manger in any way except in the shadow of Calvary (again, Ross Douthat's words are haunting me).
I don't think any of this is bad, necessarily, but I am left with a longing for the Incarnation anew in my own heart. We celebrate Christ at Christmas, and the entrance of His kingdom into our utterly broken world. But what does that entrance mean? It is certainly cause for deep and great joy - but, perhaps more - it requires us to ask for, to remember, that the Incarnation happened in our hearts as well, and it demands from us the same thing. Christ gave up everything to enter into not only this thorny, troubled planet - but also to enter into my equally thorny, troubled heart. And I am called, each morning, to also enter into this thorny world, full of violence and broken hearts and pain and suffering, and to do so with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
And so on this cold and rainy Christmas Eve Eve, I am left with a hollowness that is profoundly sacred, already-but-not-yet-completely-filled with Christ Incarnate. Perhaps that hollowness will remain throughout this life - each day an Advent of its own, but without a date circled on the calendar when we can light the Christ candle and again welcome Him physically into this world. But perhaps we don't have to wait - perhaps living out the Incarnation each day in our own lives will help to usher in the full and final Kingdom. I can join a God who is making all things new because I have already been made new, stamped and claimed and wholly cleaned by the One who is weaving together the threads of the Garden once again.
He has come once. He will come again. But in the meantime, I think these words are not just historical, but ever-present and ever-true. We can cling to the Promise - not just the one that was kept in Bethlehem, or the one promised for future glory, but everyday. These are not just for Christmastime, but for our everyday Advent -
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.