"Give us an advent spirit," he whispered as he ended his prayer for our meal. And as we picked up forks and drinks and napkins, that phrase kept bumping around inside me. And it bumps still. I don't feel expectant or joyfully waiting, and so I'm struck by those words. Give me an advent spirit.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been my favorite time of year. No matter which side of the ocean I was celebrating on, I waited expectantly all year for the sights, sounds, and smells of this beautiful season.
But that was before the darkness creeped in, marring my whole world and tainting even the holidays I loved. Now this time of year feels like labored breathing. It's exhausting. Hard. Like I'm just waiting for it to end instead of wishing it would linger a while longer like I once did.
This year, I've been intentional to remember my power to choose. And right now more than ever I'm forced to remember that joy really is my choice. No matter the circumstance or the feeling. And while the holidays aren't as sweet or as magical as they once were, I can still choose to find joy within them.
There's a reason we sing, "O tidings of comfort and joy." Somehow, the two hold hands.
And so I put lights on the wooden giraffe by my front door. I placed a nativity on my mantle. I strung lights into wine bottles strewn about my apartment. I stare often at my star-topped tree that stands as a beacon of light, pushing back the darkness. Comfort and joy.
In the words of Elisabeth Elliot—"Joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God."
And what better time than right now to take comfort in that. To allow my heart to breathe, to hope, to anticipate. Because no matter what, God's presence abides...
Emmanuel. God with us.
And because He is here, I can choose joy.
For those, like me, who find the holidays uniquely heartsore, will you join me in choosing to discover joy and comfort in the presence of God, made visible in a manger filled with hay? Let's "lift our eyes", being purposeful to not only seek but also to be comfort and joy.
And for those who love this season, will you be intentional to remember that it is bittersweet for many? Open your eyes and hearts to see the heartsore among you. Extend invitations. Hug tightly. Through you, others can be reminded that God sees and knows and cares.
God is with us.
Comfort and joy, friends...