THANKSGIVING ADVENT CHRISTMAS
If only Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas this year could be as simple, meek, and mild as the ubiquitous pumpkin spice (yes, I have even seen pumpkin spice kleenex in Stop & Shop!) For many of us, this is a favorite time of year - family gatherings; sumptuous meals; decorating with well-loved Christmas ornaments; Christmas carols galore; the scents of Christmas cookies baking and cider mulling; our Sanctuary and church building coming to life with wreaths, poinsettias, and candlelight; abundant generosity everywhere. It is also a time when many Cape residents happily look forward to their winter homes in warmer climates.
But I must admit, this year it all seems a bit more challenging, a bit more trite. Why? Because just when we begin to recover from the news of one devastating natural disaster (hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides), we learn of another (wildfires), or we become horrified captive witnesses to a mass shooting (Las Vegas). And so the understandable calls to conquer climate change and forcefully address gun control grow louder and louder. And we wonder, how do all those millions of people affected by all these tragedies begin to recover even the tiniest sense of laughter and joy? In our own church community, we are aware of the emotional toll that Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas take on those who have experienced the loss of loved ones or who are enduring struggling times. This year, “Joy to the World” and “Good Christian Folk Rejoice” seem just a bit fleeting.
And yet, and yet...
“the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2) “by the tender mercy of our God the light from on high shall break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness…and to guide our feet in the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79) “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5).
Jesus – Emanuel – God with Us – did not come into a world sparkling with goodness, joy, and light. If that were the case, there would have been no need for Jesus! To the contrary, Jesus came into a world that was struggling with weighty trials and tribulations just as we are today. In this season, we are reminded that God’s love for us is stronger than ever; that God took on human form to give hope to our despair, light to our darkness, love to our loneliness. And not only that, maybe this year we are more fiercely reminded that Jesus came that we may become healers to the broken, welcomers to the lost, lovers of the earth, and restorers of dignity to the full diversity of God’s people.
Yes, right now “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” and “Silent Night” seem more in tune for me than “Jingle Bells.” But that is okay. Because this year we are being challenged to make the truth and power of this season – light overcoming darkness – real in our lives and in the world. This is true joy.