Coming to a holiday season full of joy and merriment is terrific. The world, although at war, is right. Family and friends are healthy and happy. The days spent at home with loved ones are looked forward to. For others, though, this Christmas season is different. The joy that was there last year isn't present. Instead, in its place, is a grief or brokenness that seems irreconcilable with the overwhelming joy of the Christmas season.
Maybe it's a broken relationship, and you are walking into this Christmas without that friend or spouse by your side for the first time in years. Or maybe it's the loss of a loved one -- and to experience Christmas without her seems impossible, if not wrong. Whatever it is that might have broken your heart this year, you might feel it more keenly this Christmas. Brokenness, however, has a way of letting God come nearer.
One of my favorite writers as of late, Shauna Niequist, writes about these seasons as "Thin Places." It's an ancient Celtic idea -- of a place where the divide between divine and natural is thin, and God comes down to touch the earth, and His presence is nearly tangible. Brokenness can certainly bring us to that thin place -- where God can, if we let him, come down to us and touch us in our broken state. When things seem to be falling apart all around us and inside us, God draws near with His presence. He might not fix things right away, but He is there, with us.
If we come to this time of year grieving or feeling heartbroken, the Christmas joy and spirit can be hard to muster up. But Advent can help us in this place. Advent gives us another option beyond faking it til you make it. Advent lets us really grieve, yet really hope.
"Give up for a while your false and failing attempts at merriment, and thank God for thin places, and for Advent, for a season that understands longing and loneliness and long nights. Let yourself fall open to Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it's been lost." - Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet
My prayer for you in this Advent season is that you would call on Emmanuel, "God With Us." I pray that you would open yourself to Him this Christmas, allow him to come down to you and be present with you in whatever season you find yourself.
If you want to read more about "Thin Places," check out Shauna's book Bittersweet. It was one of my favorite reads this year.