It’s almost time. The holidays will soon be here and many of us will struggle. Some of us have anticipatory grief, others are dealing with actual or delayed grief, some are simply depressed or at least ‘blue’. Some folks are lonely or missing family or just battle with the amount of joy over the holiday season. I struggle with both the grief aspects but also the contrast to the hatred and vitriol we display against the stark contrast of Frost the Snowman! Yes, for me, the holidays are at times as much about hurt as joy. This is probably why I spend so much time creating a beautiful Advent Liturgy as well as Blue Christmas Service every year. I don’t just craft liturgy for you, I selfishly develop it to help heal me, too.
The word “advent” means an anticipation of the arrival of a person or an event. Advent is the season that reminds us of an arrival of something greater than ourselves and our problems. As a season in the Church, it is placed at the beginning of the Church year. It is the beginning of a new spiritual journey for each of us. We are reminded once again that the promise God made about our salvation has come. This promise is the true hope beyond any other hope we have. We build our traditions around this time to remind us of that great mystery of Christ’s coming for our salvation.
Some parishes use purple, but we have become accustomed to the color of blue. Saint Miriam uses blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent. Royal Blue is sometimes used as a symbol of royalty. Some churches use Bright Blue, or Sarum, to symbolize the night sky, the anticipation of the impending announcement of the King’s coming, or to symbolize the waters of Genesis 1, the beginning of a new creation. Perhaps, in my brokenness, I find solace in the color often matching my mood. Soon the Advent Wreath will become the focus and there will be three blue and one rose candle, each representing 1,000 years. Added together, the four candles symbolize the 4,000 years that humanity waited for the Savior. I find, in my pin, that it seems often I have waited an equal amount of time to heal.
There is a common image many people share the night before Christmas. A little child goes to bed on Christmas Eve with the excitement of what Santa will bring on Christmas Day — a child with a sense of wonder and awe – still pure and innocent from the harshness of the world – prepares for what may happen in the morning. It is this excitement that is stored in the child’s memory for years to come. It is the beginning of wonder and awe building our hopes as we anticipate something great. Soon, as a new dad, I will set aside my grief and depression to create for my son the joy that will last when I am no longer here. I will create in my years by his side something that will outlast and outlive me, so he can reach down to that joy when he needs it most.
This is my wish at this time of year for those of us who find it a trying time. As Howard Thurman said, ‘old burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting’, and that is so often how God comes to us.
God’s care and embrace are made manifest by often simple, selfless gifts and by His coming to us at the most opportune and perhaps unexpected moments. It is in these special moments that we are often made whole. Any earlier, these gifts would have been lost in the darkness of our grief; any later it could not have been undervalued or under appreciated. Because what will happen at Saint Miriam this Advent Season, will help heal us a bit more as we become a bit more whole again. No, I know that we will never be the same, but whatever is left, God will use for good. That I know and that I trust, because God’s timing is always impeccable.
St. Clare once said, “Let us pray to God together for each other for, by sharing each other’s burden of charity in this way; we shall easily fulfil the law of love taught by Christ.”
I pray we will; that we can.