The tension of the holidays

“A hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” - Proverbs 13:12 I was talking with a great friend the other day about the tension of the holidays. How we can look forward to the time at home with family with great anticipation. We build up great hope for a perfect weekend -- with stimulating dinner conversation, rounds of games and plenty of fun.

And yet, sometimes, at the end of the holidays, we walk away a little disappointed. So a tension builds inside of us: a longing to be at home with loved ones, but a little bit of reservation -- that we shouldn’t get our hopes up too much this time around. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are filled with contradiction: hope and fear; expectation and anxiety; chaos and peace.

Sometimes, the tension inside of us becomes so great that we simply shut down. But God is with us in that tension, in that space between -- and perhaps he is wanting to do something with it.

Advent helps us to navigate that tension. When we recognize that Christ has already come -- and yet the world is not as it should be -- then we can begin to navigate the same tensions we see in our world. Begin to walk between the already and the not yet.

The many contradictions in our lives...can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us.... These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy. Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God.

Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

It is when we recognize the tension -- being honest with ourselves and with God about the disappointment we feel, and reaffirm our belief in Christ’s coming-again -- that hope begins to rise, and we are driven to God.

Don’t run away from the tension you feel this holiday season. Ask Christ to meet you in it. He has both felt tremendous joy, and dealt with great disappointment. The tension can help move you toward God, if you will only let it.