When my heart is heavy before Christmas

When your heart feels too heavy to celebrate Christmas, remember this... "Long lay the world, in sin and error pining."On Sunday morning I shuffled into church alone and very, very gloomy. My husband had volunteered to stay home with crying boys #1 and #2, and I had fled the scene with my daughter, wondering all the way what good it would do me to go and inflict my miserable self on a community filled with Christmas cheer. I had, however, promised to give someone a ride to church, and so bunking church was not an option. I drove. I arrived. I grouched.

I wrestled.

I’m not feeling the joy of Christmas right now. The beautifully decorated room with its proclamations of joy and exulting poinsettias were a little jarring to my Eeyore-self. We started singing songs, and I tried hard to focus on the words I knew my soul needed not just to sing but to absorbsongs about hope and peace and a good God being at the helm of it all.

But my heart was heavy, carrying more burdens than our souls are meant to bear: broken marriages, moms with toddlers grieving the deaths of their husbands, Ebola, and ISIS, and the stinging betrayal of Bill Cosby’s rape allegations. The hurt and anger and brokenness of Ferguson, the tragedy of children being sold for sex right in our community.

Everything is so very, very broken. 

I stood in church, wondering what in the world I was doing singing about joy when I could feel the darkness pressing against me so heavily. How could I possibly begin to prepare myself, or my family, for Advent, feeling such a terrible dearth of Christmas cheer?

I considered how terribly unprepared I was for Advent. And then it occurred to me that, just maybe, this was the best possible place to prepare for Advent.

“long lay the world, in sin and error pining”

Advent rehearses the history of those waiting for the God’s promised King: pining in darkness, acutely aware of sin and error and the devastation they bring… no, we bring… all around. ‘Pining’ was the perfect descriptor of where my soul was at: longing for things to be different, needing a hero.

We sang and sang, and a precious family got up to light the first advent candle: hope.

“long lay the world, in sin and error pining…. ’til He appeared”

The grief we feel for the brokenness of the world is a real and raw thing. But, as 1 Thessalonians says, “we do not grieve as those without hope.” Somehow, Advent is a call to me to not let my eyes become too accustomed to the darkness all around, but to train my eyes on the Light which has entered our darkness.

God has not abandoned our world. He did not forget his promises to Israel: he sent Jesus. And he has not abandoned our world now. Contrary to those who say that Jesus has gone to heaven and we are simply biding time in this cursed world until we join him, the scripture teaches that Jesus is returning to this world to finish the rescue he began two thousand years ago.

I sat through the sermon and felt my hope bolstered: in this time of waiting we are not just called to be faithful people, we are called to be people of faith. Advent it not just about being faithful to do the right things, and to do them in the right way. It is about being people who believe in a God whose love affair with this world and us crazy creatures continues through the darkest centuries.

His people waited in the darkness, and He came.

And so, this Advent, I’m waiting in the darkness. He came. And He’s coming again.

Photo credit: Rosipaw 332/365 first advent (Flickr Creative Commons), edited by Bronwyn Lea

12 thoughts on “When my heart is heavy before Christmas

  1. Not only is he returning to0 us, he is with us as we await his return. This is the blessed hope and blessed present reality we get to live.

    • Thank you for adding that, Tim. You’re absolutely right, and I am so grateful for the one who intercedes for us as we groan.

      • Superb article. Perfect timing for me, too, and for anyone who is feeling rather overwhelmed at present. Tim’s comment mirrored my own thoughts…..

        Thank you for your article, Bronwyn.
        I have just shared it with several friends.

  2. This is beautiful. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! The cry of our hearts where utter despair and glorious hope mingles. Thanks for writing this, friend.

  3. Thanks for this Bronwyn! For the first time in my life I’m trying to be more mindful of Advent this year and this added a lot!

  4. Thankfulness. Look at Nancy Wilson’s blog. She writes on it. That is how to approach advent. It is also how to approach pedophilia. You are right. There are White and Black and Mexican and Asian men who are raping children smuggled from Tenancingo and other such places. There are pedophiles (wolves) in our churches. They are in all parts of the country. Do we stop loving the brethren for this? No. What we have to do, is first off, remember that Christ came to redeem the pedophile as much as he came to redeem you. So what does that mean? Does that mean we forgive and forget if someone’s caught? No! There is a difference between Sins and crimes. If someone is being molested or you really suspect it, by all means call the cops. Let them do their investigation. The biggest thing we cannot do though is trust in background checks. This is because most pedophiles have never been caught. Ugly truth. Background checks give a false sense of security.

    Praying about the situation is certainly Paramount the first thing that needs to be done. However, there are some physical things that you should be doing as well. People within the sin of pedophilia have certain psychological similarities. They will act in certain ways that are not what we would call normal. You need to understand how they react and this is something that you can learn. I have been reading a blog by a woman who was married to a pedophile for 40 years. She didn’t know what he was doing. He was the pastor. I don’t completely agree with every conclusion she has, but learning about the red flags that her husband sent out is valuable and she is putting her spirit through the wringer to write her blog. i have linked her blog to my post.

    How can one be thankful in this situation? Well, God said to be thankful in every situation, so it must be possible. There is another reason though. I believe it’s actually getting better. Think about it, there’s always been such men in the church. What do you think it was like for Christians 500 years ago in the church before the Reformation and even after the Reformation for a time. Those poor souls had nowhere to go. Things have definitely improved and they’re going to continue to improve because God wants Jesus to have a perfect bride. All the stuff is going to be gone before Jesus comes back and Jesus is coming back.

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