Intentional Advent, part 2

I lost the glow of Christmas five years ago in the dark gloom of postpartum depression. I was working a difficult job, raising a two year old son, anticipating the birth of a little girl, and the beauty of this holiday got lost. Worries about coworkers, worries about sibling rivalry, worries about raising a confident girl all dimmed the sparkle of the season. And though it has been five years, I haven’t been intentional about finding the jolly holiday again…until now. I’m calling this season my Intentional Advent.

I want to experience the joy of celebrating Jesus’ arrival as though it is my first time, again. I want to impart to my children that it’s more about the love of God than anything else. I want to cherish every moment this season and cultivate a joyous spirit with which to enter the new year as well.

So, here we go…

The first Sunday of Advent. The Sunday of Hope.

I posted earlier today the lyrics of an old poem/ hymn by Christina Rossetti. It has special meaning to me because of the dark place I am trying to leave this early-winter. As I reread the lyrics this evening, I realized how the hymn correlates to the four Sundays of Advent. Hope, Love, Peace, and Joy. 

The first verse of the carol is redundant with the gray gloom of winter…snow upon snow, bleak, iron, stone…nothing bright and cheerful. The Scripture for this Sunday in Advent is similar. Isaiah 64 reports, among other despair, ‘We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf; our iniquities, like the wind, take us away…’ Even Jesus declares doom in Mark 13 with, ‘In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in heaven will be shaken.’ Snow upon snow upon snow… But there is hope. ‘Be aware, keep alert, for no one knows when the time {of his return} will come.’ The gloom will not prevail. The light will shine again.

And as Rossetti’s ancient carol goes on, love comes around.  Verse two reminds us that  ‘in the bleak midwinter, a stable place sufficed the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.’ This amazing part of God that can’t be contained in heaven or on earth or in our imaginations. So great is he, that his love overflowed to us. That’ll chase away those bleak midwinter blues…

Though the angels could have filled the stable and the town with their presence and praises, quiet peace filled the air as ‘his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped the beloved with a kiss.’ Gentle peace, gracious peace, calming peace…the compassionate parental peace that comes from one who knows their child like none other. God’s peace…

Rossetti ends with the antithesis of bleak…celebration. A heart that has been dark and gray now sees light and beauty…and wants to rejoice. ‘What can I give him?’ How can I tell him how much I appreciate his coming? I have nothing to offer, no tangible gift like others. What do I have…my adoration. My heart overflows with joy for him…all I can do is praise him.

This hymn resonates with me at the start of this Advent season. I wrestle with the dimness of the world and its commercialized hype, my own gray clouds and longing for sunshine. I want simplicity and joy again. In this bleak cold season, I think I will return to the manger to find my hope, love, peace, and joy. 

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