It has been an upside-down Advent for me. The other day, I attended the funeral of a 21-year-old man who took his life after a struggle with depression. I cannot imagine the devastation of his parents and siblings as they deal with their grief. All around, lights and decorations and upbeat music pervade the atmosphere, but their hearts are broken.
In a few days, I will be having eye surgery. I have faith but also struggle with apprehension about the procedure and facing the holiday season with all the fearful after-effects while hoping for good eventual results.
My sister was just diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and I feel her fear and struggle with her in her pain. Another sister is struggling with incurable liver disease. What is going on? Why are so many people I love going through such struggles?
It’s not the typical fun and excitement I associate with preparing for Christmas. Not the hopeful, encouraging vision put before us in the Advent readings of a time of healing and restoration and joy that is at the heart of the coming of our Redeemer. Advent has always been a favorite liturgical season for me. I love the hope, peace, and joy of awaiting our savior.
This year my emotions are having trouble catching up with the spiritual realities. Too much pain too close to home. But as I struggle for perspective, I am all the more drawn to the mysterious reality of Christ’s coming. The world is full of struggle. You don’t have to dig very deep to find people and situations that are full of fear and pain. But it is to the very point of our need and our pain that Jesus the Savior comes.
The hope of Advent is not so much about a little baby born in obscurity in a manger. It is about the life of that infant and how it relates to our lives. It is about the reason Jesus came—to restore all things to the kingdom of God. In this world we have difficulties, but Jesus has come to conquer the world.
Scripture tells us that the light of Christ has come to shine in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome his light. As I struggle with the painful circumstances in the lives of people close to me, I find even greater joy in the promise of Advent. Jesus knows and understands our struggles and he is close at hand to help us and to save us. This year I am discovering a deep hope that wells up and connects me to the Savior, who is our help in every need. In this knowledge, I wish you a blessed Advent and a deep joy in your celebration of Christmas.