In the midst of a hard year, Kerry Campbell contemplates how ready we are for joy and for the gifts only God can bring us.
The past few years, I’ve felt pretty Grinchy about Christmas. I’m a church music minister and a teacher and a mom, and it just seemed like the celebration of Christmas came with a large list of things-to-do just at the time I felt most depleted. I remember a recent day after Thanksgiving, the traditional start to the Christmas season, when the thought of the mess, shopping, wrapping, and decorating felt like a heavy list of tasks around my neck, and for the first time ever, I entertained thoughts like:
Who needs presents, anyway?
No one wants that Christmas candy I make every year.
Maybe we don’t need to put up a tree.
That last one I said out loud, and my teenage daughter gasped. “Really? No tree!” And I didn’t mean it. Of course, we did put up a tree and that Christmas season was good and busy in all of the ordinary ways. At the time, I longed for the peace and simplicity that could come about from a well-observed Advent, when things might slow down enough to remember the true gift of Jesus and the expectation of light brought to darkness, when hope made its way into the world in ways we’d never expect but which we’d have to watch for.
This year is different in many ways, but my love for Advent has remained. You could say the whole year in many ways has been a kind of Advent, a time of waiting for the light to break in, for God to make things right in a way only He can. And with less pressure to make Christmas “perfect” in the wake of a pandemic, I find my spirit is quieter, more ready, more calm. I’ll miss the parties and the people, but I won’t miss the chaos. I’m making room for a savior for me and this broken world and somehow my heart is more ready, my spirit more open, my eyes already looking up in expectation. How about you?
It feels like in the midst of such a hard year, we’re ready for joy and for the gifts only God can bring us, so let’s put our energy into gratitude, hope, and the celebration of the gifts we’ve already received. God is faithful, and He’s on the move, certainly, making all things new. We are seeing things come to pass that have been in process all along, a shift in our lens and our vocations, a clarity about our priorities, and a realized need for the providence of God. Hopefully in these last months, we’ve swept our hearts clean of the things that didn’t need to be there, but if not, Advent is a great time to do just that, to make a home ready for the Lord within us.
When Jesus came to Earth to be born as a human baby, He broke into time itself. God who is timeless suddenly dropped into the rhythms of the day and the seasons. He even ultimately changed the whole calendar itself. But in the smallest way, Jesus would have gained some understanding of how people wait, how they hold on, day after day, for something to change, for salvation, for rescue. He would have seen how hard it can be. His heart would have turned in mercy for His people. I have to hope that He sees us, even now, and that He is moved in compassion to act. The time matters, the seasons mark us, and I’m counting on Him. Ours is a God who sees and helps.
So, if you don’t feel like Christmas today, don’t fret, because it’s not time for Christmas. It’s time for Advent. It’s a time for expectation, hope, and light breaking through darkness in our time. And together let’s look up and say, amen, amen, amen.
Copyright 2020 Kerry Campbell
Image copyright 2020 Kerry Campbell. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Kerry Campbell is a Catholic-Christian preschool music teacher, church cantor, writer, full-time noticer, and Mom to two college students. She’s letting the details of her life inform her wider view in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. She loves connecting with readers, so find her writing at MyLittleEpiphanies.com and please say hello!