John 1 says of Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.“ It continues on to say that Jesus is the “true light”. The run-up to Christmas is filled with lights – twinkling fairy lights, candles, lanterns, signs alight and flashing as businesses all compete for the attention of shoppers. Some of the lights are pleasant and cheery, some not so much. But none of them last. When the season is over they will all be taken away and we will be plunged into wintery darkness once again. But the “true light” that entered into our world long ago does not leave us. He still shines out in the darkness and we as His followers have a unique opportunity at Christmas to pull back the curtain of busyness, consumerism and false attempts at merry-making for the true Light to be seen in and through our lives.
Therefore we asked a few people to share with us over the next few weeks how they are personally reigniting the “true” light of Christmas in their own lives this year.
Crystal starts us off with how she is engaging with Advent more intentionally.
Advent – coming.
This simple word has lodged itself in my heart this year and has had me pondering. And has influenced my way of celebrating and engaging with Christmas.
I love Christmas, always have. I am always counting down the days until I can put up the tree and lights and then I try to keep them up as long as possible – until the poor tree is shrivelled and dried to half its original size!
But this year this word Advent has had me approaching the celebratory aspects of Christmas a bit more slowly. Yes, the tree is up – it hasn’t slowed me that much!
However, I have been more aware of the current darkness, pain, suffering, the deep bone weariness & exhaustion, frustrated restlessness, angry impatience, the quiet despairing resignation, and the deep, hungry yearning for hope in the world and in my friends and family. Therefore what Christmas truly represents has felt so important and I have not wanted to rush into the surface merry-making, but sit with the deeper truth of this season and let it sink into my being.
Shauna Niequist says, “There are years when the Christmas spirit is hard to come by, and it’s in those seasons when I’m so thankful for Advent. Consider it a less flashy but still very beautiful way of being present to this season. 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.”
I am “falling open to Advent” through my homemade Advent calendar. Little envelopes hanging on a wee paper tree and in each envelope is the name of someone to pray for and send an encouraging note to.
Then I am reading this profound little daily Advent devotional by Walter Bruggemann called Celebrating Abundance.
In the silent early hours of each morning I make my cup of coffee, take that day’s name from the envelope, sit by the tree, and prayerfully read through the devotional, allowing the gentle whisper of Holy Spirit to do its work in my own heart before turning my prayers to the name scribbled on the bit of paper.
There has been no great moment of mind-blowing revelation. But rather a slowly building sense of quiet anticipation, an increased longing for Jesus and for His light to penetrate the darkness and struggle in which those I know and love and those I don’t know find themselves in at the moment. Because Advent is for these people especially. And so I look towards Christmas, anticipating that Light to come and fill what is empty, repair the broken and restore what has been lost.