I only recently saw the movie Inside Out, where personified feelings (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear) inside a little girl’s head struggle to help her cope with a move to a new city. The feelings catalog joyful memories, sad memories, angry memories, etc. that shape who the girl has come to be. I loved the movie. There’s this amazing moment when you (and the feelings) realize that a memory can be both sad and happy. It can contain elements of many emotions at the same time.
Christmas can be like that. My mind goes to memories of snow outside the window in the morning, hearing the wind whistle through the trees in Oak Valley, the smell of a fire downstairs, and the promise of new toys, sledding, and time with family during school break. When I think of Christmas, I am filled with joy.
But I’m also filled with sadness. My cousin died in a one-car accident when both of us were 25. I remember our family getting the phone call, and sitting in shock in our living room, my mom sobbing, on the first day of a vacation from work that Tracie and I chose to spend with my parents.
I remember finding out my grandfather had died. We knew it was coming, but it was difficult, nonetheless. Instead of gathering with extended family for Christmas Eve, we gathered a few days earlier for a funeral. Christmas is a time of joyful anticipation, but also mournful yearning for a time past, or maybe a future reunion.
It was the same for the Israelites, waiting for the coming Messiah. They were exiled, scattered, refugees living far from home, waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. And it’s the same today. We, the Church, live in expectant hope for Jesus to return, to wipe away every tear, to right the wrongs, to raise up the valleys and lay low the mountains. This year, with so many tragedies in Syria, Paris, Beirut, Nigeria, and even in our country, we yearn for Jesus to come and redeem the world around us.
In a nutshell, that is what the season of Advent is all about. Advent means “arrival.” We not only celebrate Jesus’ arrival as a baby born in Bethlehem. We also await the arrival of Jesus who is coming again to rescue and redeem us all forever. As we near Christmas, embrace this season. Consider New Cov’s Christmas Experience, a weekly opportunity to enter into Advent and Christmas with family or close friends. You might also look up World Vision’s 2015 Advent Prayer Guide.
Know that you are not alone in feeling the joy and the sadness of the season. And know that Jesus comes to us all, promising to fulfill our joy and banish our sadness one day soon, just as he did for the world once already.
Peace on earth. Good will to all people.