The Christmas season is approaching, and stores are already sparkling with tinsel and wreaths. I’ve ordered my first gifts online, and my calendar for December is already half full with commitments big and small. Leaves are still clinging to the trees outside, and we’ve decided where to place the Christmas tree in our new apartment.
[“Obviously,” you think – except I wrote these words two weeks ago before Remembrance Day had even passed.]
It is possible to spend so much time getting ready for Christmas that the holiday itself passes by in a blur of peppermint extract and paper snowflakes, and when Christmas is over we sigh with relief and hunker down to nap off the calories.
In the church calendar, the Christmas season doesn’t even begin until Dec 25 – the weeks leading up to it prepare us and lead us to reflect on the season and the days following Christmas, the actual Christmas season, when radio stations have gone back to regular programming and many Christmas trees are packed up or dragged down the driveway.
I need advent this year more than I have before, or at least I feel my need for it more. My heart weighs heavy filtering the realities of our present through my hope for the future, praying for loved ones and strangers and myself, and I don’t want to rush through the waiting. Advent is more than 24 days of tiny chocolates hiding behind cardboard windows – it echoes the wait for a Messiah through generations. Advent holds space for us to remember that hope, love, peace and joy are not just sparkly words for holiday cards but soul-sustaining promises from God to his people.
We sang this song in church yesterday, and I was reminded as I have been over and over that God is not limited by raw materials when he creates. A few years ago I wrote a poem that says, no spark caught dry tinder, no switch sent electrons shooting through copper wire, before there was fire before there was sun, into the darkness God spoke, “let there be.”
And I wanted to share this vision that was triggered by this song, of light streaming out from the heart of a dark place. The world feels like darkness is creeping over it with war and rumours of war. ISIS gives us a common enemy but not necessarily a common cause to fight for. We can speak of unity and pray for unity, but the fact is humanity is divided. We seem to only have the capacity for so much love, so much compassion, and we ration it out disproportionately around the globe.
But when the sun rises, it does not discriminate who it shines on. For all the #prayfor______ posts I’ve seen this weekend, I hope people have actually taken time on their knees to interceed for Paris, for Beirut, for the world. We are up against a darkness that will consume us if we plan to resist it only by the glow of computer screens and the colour of our profile pictures. Light a candle. Pray in the real world to the God who created this earth for beauty, not for war. Imagine with me that the light of Christ will reach a modern day Saul of Tarsus who is holding the coats of murderers and breathing out threats and murder, that out of the darkness a light will shine. We pray for Christ to come and make things right, but his patience and our world’s suffering mean mercy for those who are still on their way to Jesus.
In our hearts, Lord, in the nations
We are moving!
A few weeks ago a friend texted me that she and her husband were moving elsewhere in the city and wondered if Matt and I would be interested in taking their apartment up the street from our church. We thought about it and prayed about it and went to see it, and we weighed the pros and cons of staying in our current apartment. Gradually we each swung towards wanting to move, and then we met with the landlords to go over the details, and now we are giving our notice to be out by the end of October!
Although I tend to resist change, I am really excited to live in a new space. I have been reading articles about living room layouts and researching routes for my commute to work. I’m looking to make the most of two more months with a playground right next door and good friends just a few floors down, but I’m also excited to count down the last few trips to the laundry room, long waits for the elevator, second hand smoke in the hallway, and hot nights with no air conditioning.
At this point I’m looking forward to packing, and my goal is for us to only bring the things we want to keep. Our last move included a few bags and boxes of miscellany that we didn’t particularly need or want, and our apartment is currently housing a selection of crates and shoeboxes that contain homeless items I wasn’t sure were trash. Surely two months is enough time to sift a two bedroom apartment. Right? I’m cautiously optimistic. I imagine boxes packed and stacked and labeled for where they belong, ready to make our new apartment home.
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