Nate and I drove to Behold the Lamb this past weekend, dressed in wool sweaters and leather boots and knit hats. We drank vanilla egg-nog lattes at the coffee shop and sometimes his eyes make me catch my breath. They have gotten sadder this year and have more crinkles around the corners. When I hear him on the phone laughing with one of our friends, my heart leaps and catches, there is no sound I love more than his laughter and the air feels so thick sometimes these days with anxiety and unknowns and tears. I miss his laughter and try to catch and hold it when I hear it.
There are some very good pieces floating around on loneliness and discouragement in the Christmas season, and I cannot add much to them, although I will say I expected holidays to take a different form once I got married, a more cheerful one. The truth, though, is our holidays have been sadder and emptier in many ways this year. I know they will begin to take form when we are more settled but for now they feel messy and haphazard and slightly unfinished, incomplete.
When during Behold the Lamb this year, Jill Philips began singing that it was not a silent night something in me broke this time around. I haven't stopped thinking of it for the past four days.
The King came as a baby, yes, born in a manger, yes, a pauper and homeless from his first breath. The King who owned the world did not have a place to lay his head except on the breast of the girl-child who birthed him in the squalor of animals and the poverty of their situation. It was not a silent night. It was not a peaceful night. It was not a night when "all that was sad came untrue." It was a night of pain in the midst of a people of pain and a generation of pain and a history of pain. Jesus had burst forth from a woman, but few believed right then, and not many more would until he burst forth from the tomb. He was there, but not all there. A bit like our todays. He has come and not yet come.
He has changed the water into the best wine, but He is still waiting to serve us the best feast.
He has put mud on our blind eyes but we still see through a glass dimly and men as trees walking.
He has calmed the storm over the sea but not the storm raging in all our hearts.
He has already come, but He has not yet come again.
We are still waiting.
The advice and reminders are everywhere, "Be happy! Your King has come!" but, friends, this Advent points to another Advent, and the waiting there is more painful and less jolly. We are still waiting. Our King has come but He has also not come and the angst in your hearts, the discontent, the fear of the unknown, the "How Long O Lord" that beats with your every breath—this is not a shameful thing. This is the unjust taxes and the baby boys dying over Israel and the mute Zechariah and the barren Elizabeth and the unplanned pregnancy of Mary and the agonizing decision for Joseph to believe the Angel Gabriel and the stink of animals and the no room at the inn and the loud sounds of labor and the first visitors of sheep and shepherds. All this clamoring angst and fear and frustration and waiting we feel is found in all of that tonight.
It's a week until Christmas and your struggles are probably greater than the gifts you haven't bought yet or the dilapidated remains of your Advent calendar or your fears about family drama. These are struggles we have masking the real weight we carry around, "How long O Lord? How long?" It is hard to sing Silent Night or Holy Night when all your nights are everything but. So know this, friend, He didn't come for a silent night and He didn't come in one. He came into the mess because of the mess. He came into the pain because of the pain. He came into the squalor because of the squalor. He came into today because he wanted to assure us that none of our todays were too much for Him.
What we face today is why He came and what He came into and why He is coming again, this time to really and forever "make everything sad come untrue (Tolkien)."