I have been in a foul mood for days. I have been struggling and straining to piece and patch together a meaningful experience of these ‘holiday’ times that have been, are currently, and are yet to be upon us. But it’s been a miserable failure. I feel like the Grinch when I see tables laden with food and glittering trees. I cringe when I hear holiday music.
Generally speaking (not only at holiday times) I am pleasant and cheerful enough when in the presence of others. But left to my own devices I tend toward melancholy and brooding. I am constantly analyzing my life, my behaviors, and my beliefs in an attempt to live an authentic, consistent life. In some kind of leftover Puritanical strain that I have yet to rid myself of, I find I am constantly coming up short.
Normally I enjoy finding the sacred in the profane, but I’m feeling resentful about finding the profane in my sacred holidays. It seems like that isn’t fair. But I’m grumpy, grouchy, and disgruntled enough to say it.
The thing is, it’s not Christmas yet, it’s Advent. The second day of Advent to be precise. And I don’t know how to experience the joy of Christmas, the in-breaking of the divine into the world, if I haven’t spent some time in preparation and reflection. Advent is more of a time of fasting and withholding, in order to make room to experience the joy of Christmas – which lasts for twelve days beginning on Christmas day and ending with Epiphany. And in my life and within myself, there is so much junk and gunk that I really need that time to clear out some space.
This first week of Advent, the watch-word is “hope.” The only thing giving me hope right now, as I thrash around in a culture that doesn’t always make sense to me, is something from Eugene Peterson in “God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas”. It’s a book with art, prayers, and daily reflections from Advent through Epiphany. I read it every year. At the end of the introduction he says, “Christmas forces us to deal with all the mess of our humanity in the context of God who has already entered that mess in the glorious birth of Jesus.”
The mess of humanity – now that’s a reality that really makes sense to me.