The drive home is so familiar; driving it with my eyes closed seems tempting. The last several hours have been overflowing with the kind things that create memories that don’t easily fade. My senses have had quite the workout, the sights, sounds, tastes and feelings of the week have filled me up, yet there is also an exhaustion creeping in.
The little ones along for the ride have given in to sleep’s tempting song. The twilight evening is the perfect setting for my mood. The days here have been warm; too warm for the season. Most would call this spring like weather an unexpected gift this time of year.
This week my commute to and from work has been plagued with a thick fog. One day in particular, the thick mist was masking the sunrise, not seeming to let the world wake up. After spending the entire day inside at my desk, I was surprised that the fog was still heavy when I started my drive home. We seemed to be stuck in the fog’s eerie grip.
A few days later that fog has lifted, but the season still seems wrong. These hours have been filled with warm weather, which tricks us into thinking it is October, not December. I’ve heard that the cold will return next week. Until then we seem to be stuck in this pattern of foggy, warm, misty, winter coat shedding, yet breath still visible weather. Weather that seems to echo the tension of this advent season.
Content and stable, yet longing for the thrill of instability.
Longing for the thrill of instability, yet unmotivated to move.
Unmotivated to move, yet pushed to the max by things you fear left undone.
Pushed to the max by things you fear left undone, yet the desire for rest and peace and calm.
Desire for rest and peace and calm, yet drawn in by the communion with family and friends.
Drawn in by the communion with family and friends, yet the siren call of the department store with a sale sings your name.
The siren call of the department store with a sale sings your name, yet the teachable moment that Christmas is not about gifts.
The teachable moment that Christmas is not about gifts, yet the delight on your child’s face as they unwrap their wish.
The delight on your child’s face as they unwrap their wish, yet that deep sadness for loved ones that are missing from these joy filled moments.
That deep sadness for loved ones that are missing from these joy filled moments, yet the pressure the world puts on you to have “the Christmas spirit”.
Years ago came across this quote by theologian Fredrick Buechner that has stuck with me, He said, “Joy is when the whole being is pointed in one direction. And it is something by its nature a man never hoards, but always wants to share. Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, and even under the most unpromising circumstances. Even in the midst of suffering. Even nailed to the tree”.
When we wrestle with this Christmas tension it is hard to feel like our whole being is pointed in one direction. This tension feels quite the opposite. We feel a bit undone, bogged down and paralyzed. It isn’t a stretch for us to imagine this tension not only in our own lives, but invading the world.
When we get caught up in the heaviness of the season, we can cling to the promises of Isaiah 9, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan– 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.”
The promises of Isaiah line us up and point us all in one direction. These become the anthems of joy that we run to the mountain tops to shout. Even in our tension, in our paralysis of instability, we can claim the mystery of joy that comes when we least expect it, like warm weather, on a December day.
If the ground was covered in snow today we wouldn’t think twice. A white blanket on the ground feels right. Instead we must wrestle with the warmth and the eerie fog. We have to consider the unseasonable. We must walk in the tension of not quite winter, but certainly not spring. Weather that begs the question, what are we longing for this Christmas season, and what could possibly fulfill that longing. Tension that begs for a Savior.
Marcie Gates has served as a partner in ministry for the last 7 years alongside her husband Andrew at Bretton Woods Covenant Church in Lansing, MI. Their 4 children and a full time job keep life busy, but in the in between moments she enjoys baking and a good cup of coffee with a friend.