This was the first Christmas in a lot of years that hasn’t been precluded by some great stressor—holiday travel from New York; starting a new business; moving into a new house, literally on Christmas Eve. So I was surprised when, by Thanksgiving, I was feigning the Christmas spirit for the sake of my kids, and what I was feeling instead was an unnameable restlessness. It felt like darkness, and I was ashamed of it.
For the first time since I can remember, the Christmas season practically caught me off-guard. I didn’t wrap my final present until last week, and before you laugh, you’ve got to know, I’m normally done by Thanksgiving. I wasn’t the first one to spin the Bing Crosby record; it was Trevor, and if you know him, that speaks volumes. I very nearly forgot to make gifts for our girls’ teachers. After swearing at the gingerbread house, I cast off my purist’s notions and pulled out the hot glue gun to piece the stupid thing together.
Something has had me distracted, pulled inward. Something feels like a worry or an anxiety that I haven’t experienced in a long time. This year, it’s all felt like, “Christmastime, yeah, fun, but I’m just getting through it.” This darkness has felt like a painful, frustrating waiting period.
But this morning, I jolted awake, and like a child I thought, “It’s Christmas Eve!” There was a lightness in the morning’s blue hue, and I listened to birds sing despite the cold. The sun came up over the mountain as I drank my coffee, and it splintered into rainbows through the crystal ornaments on our tree. I listened closely to the words of all the Christmas carols I’ve had mindlessly playing in the background for a month, and I realized, of course we’ve been waiting. Of course.
The last several years, I have mistaken the darkness of Advent as my own. As we struggled through a stressful period in life, unsettled and displaced, I thought the hard parts of Christmas were in what we personally were waiting for, what we longed for as a family. It threw me, to be settled into a new town and a new house, to have the girls in a school and each of us with our own outlets—to be home, and still to feel an unspeakable yearning. Except, that is Advent. We wait. We pray. We hunger, often without even knowing what for, we just know that on the other side is peace and deliverance.
I consider it a great privilege of motherhood to understand this so closely, deliverance. I spent those hours in darkness, groaning and sweating, working through pain, stripped raw in my own humanity and still, in spite of it, hopeful. The deep longing for the joy on the other side draws through the suffering, the agony of waiting, and the peace upon arrival is instant and delicious.
“The drought breaks with the tears of a mother,” Lauren Daigle wrote of Mary, but of all of us too. How fitting that after the end of a long year, we have to give that great and final push to what we are all really waiting for.
For all who wait,
For all who hunger,
For all who’ve prayed,
For all who wander:
Behold, you King! Behold, Messiah! Emmanuel!