That Christmas Spirit

December 11, 2014

I’m having a difficult time getting into the Christmas spirit. It’s not really a “bah-humbug” sort of funk. It doesn’t stem from an ungrateful heart. It doesn’t come from a place of self-focus. At least I don’t think it does. I will pray about that.

I feel quite heavy-hearted this Advent. Sure, the tree is up and I get to watch the lights twinkle in the eyes of my son. And yes, we are wrapping gifts and planning the big family meal. Yes, we are moving through all the plans and rituals of this season, but for me it feels other-worldly. I can drum up a strange sort of happy if I work hard, but this year, I am not humming carols in my quiet moments.

Instead it’s a heavy time for me. I realize sometimes that my throat feels so tight as I plod through a child’s recovery. I realize that hopes of my future are harder to hold when a life calling grows stronger with age, but the doors open and close and I have yet to walk through. That there are moments when prayer even seems too hard. When the anxiety that we so often pray away breaches the levees destructive and big. At night in the dark I realize the truth of the proverb when it somberly declares: hope deferred makes the heart sick. 

Heart sick. 

Yet into that sick heart, Jesus’ mother Mary sings. Her song in Luke is reported to be so scandalous, it has been banned in some places. Her bold declaration of what the Kingdom of God is, what this Son of Heaven would be and do, is so shocking and so deliciously subversive. So much so that whenever someone sings that notorious Christmas song, crooning to the sentimental tones “Mary did you know, that your little boy, is Heaven’s perfect Lamb?” I want to stand up and scream, “Yes! Yes, she did know! Oh goodness, how she knew! Have we read her words in the Bible?”

Into this Advent, Mary sings. Into the dark gloom of hope deferred and heart sickness, Mary sings. But it is not the scandalous word that grip at me this year. No. It’s this phrase. “For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”

He has been mindful.

I confess that this truth is hard for me to hold today. Because I don’t feel minded. But feeling is not always truth and truth is not always feeling. And I confess that I don’t know how to believe that somehow God is mindful of us when I just don’t believe it. But believe it or not, Mary’s lyric matters: God has been mindful.

And perhaps the gloom of our particular Advent is exactly what we need. Because it makes more real the world into which Mary’s Son came. A world filled with the horrors that fill our news today. A world filled with relationships that are bursting apart with the pain of expectations dashed and hurt exchanged. A world aching for the healing that only comes through the same Heaven that whispers of a new thing. Jesus came to this- to it all. To every aching bit of it, holding the shattered pieces of our lives in tenderly fierce love.

So, I’m still in my heavy place. But it’s a place where I know I am not alone. It’s a place where I am wanting to know that I am minded. Because the One from God has come. And he stays in the cavernous space of my deferred hopes, and he remembers. He sets up home in me and begins the work of revealing again that He is still present, still mindful of our small lives, even in the funky place of Advent.

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