I often think of families I've worked with, past and present, around the holidays, because I know as much as it's a time of joy and celebration, it's also a time of longing and struggle and heartache for many. Preparing, hoping, yearning. Sometimes I hear that and all I hear is "I'm just hanging on."
I believe this hope that we have is real. Christmas and Christ come is such good news. And yet, all that the season entails does not equal merry moments for everyone.
Which brings me to Advent.
People seem to like Advent. You know, preparation, hoping, yearning.
I'm not always so good at these things. My friend asked us at Bible Study if we were taking part in Advent this year. I told her I was 'engaging with Advent,' which kind of sounded like Advent and I were acquaintances but not really friends. I don't like the word acquaintances, so much so that I just had to look up the spelling of the word acquaintances.
I like friends.
I've made friends with Christmas. My family makes me laugh and I love to see them. I remember God's goodness a little more around this time of year, even though it's evident all year round. Not because of gifts of course. I told someone today you could get me no gifts whatsoever and I'd be fine. I am the girl who wants to go ice skating or make Christmas cookies. I made the dough for buckeyes tonight with my neighbor, who is also from Ohio, so I'm a step closer to my goal of eating Christmas cookies.
And, call me Elf but I like seasons in life dedicated to merriment and celebrating because I like celebrating, celebrating's my favorite. And of course this celebration is for the birth of our Savior, so that's even better. People who aren't normally kind or generous or warm seem to break out of their shells a bit more at Christmas, which is also nice.
Except when it's hard for people at Christmas.
Which is often.
And I get that. I like Christmas. I understand Advent.
Everyday, behind the scenes of the joy which take center stage, there exists the not so popular longing, the ever unwelcome grief and the not talked about conflict. I see it everyday as a counselor.
Most of us would rather skip over this. Some of you stopped reading this already.
Good news, I'm not saying we have to choose one or the other.
I'm just guessing that if you're part of humanity, you've experienced this, even if you pretend to jingle all the way, all the way.
I can't pretend to pretend, mostly because my job isn't about that and mostly because it makes me want to be sick. There are times I am like an elf-creature and there are times I'm not. I know longing, too. I identify with both.
I've said it before on here, but every Christmas I think of a family I worked with long ago, and the fact that they had barely anything that winter. They were in between housing situations and would likely be going into a shelter soon.
It was a cold day at the park. They brought their baby.
Don't worry, that baby was loved and cared for. There was a Christmas happy you could see, but it was evident the parents were longing, with a longing that made sense and only hoped things would change.
I know grace stretches beyond things we can't see in the moment, but it feels like a lot sometimes.
Who hasn't held tight to December prayers in the dark, looking for the light?
But the magic of Christmas isn't found in the most showy moments or the lights that twinkle the most bright. Sometimes, it's found in that one candle in the window, catching you by surprise, in the midst of an otherwise dark night.
linking with five minute Friday for the prompt prepare