"Hello darkness, my old friend I've come to talk with you again." ~ Simon and Garfunkel
At the beginning of Advent, I was determined to finally conquer this season as far as figuring out what it’s really about and observing it “correctly.” It’s the season I’ve had the most trouble adapting to, and the season I still least understand. I bought an Advent wreath. I envisioned lighting a candle each week while reading the appropriate collect from The Book of Common Prayer each Sunday. On the first Sunday of Advent, we lit the candle, read the collect, had a discussion. It ended there. We didn’t do any more with the wreath or the prayers or the devotional readings after that. Today, the wreath is sitting in the closet or somewhere like that. I felt guilty, but my soul was heavy with grief and questions.
The Christian story begins with God loving us. That’s the foundational truth. When Jesus came to earth, God was with us. But God is still with us, present in the Holy Eucharist. Every time I go to mass, I partake of Christ’s body and blood. He’s still with us.
Advent didn’t go the way I had planned. I still struggled with some ongoing theological questions that probably won’t resolve any time soon if ever. I’m learning to embrace the questions. I wanted it to be all pretty, to where I “did it right.” I guess that’s the fundamentalist cult past coming out there. The thing is, none of this stuff is pretty.
The grief hit, and it hit hard. Not just the grief of my son being gone, but also the grief of being estranged from family, or at least estranged from the idea of having a good relationship with the family I was born into, the grief of this season having been ruined by the ghosts of Christmases past when it was just Christmas with no Advent because that didn’t exist to the fundamentalists. The grief of being socially awkward, the grief of the loss of what could or should have been. The waves of grief washed over me, the darkness coming to sit a while.
But there is light. My son is safe and living the best life he is able to live. I have a family who saw me when I was invisible and started to create chunks in my carefully constructed walls, which brought in the light, little by little, until the light was bright and warm. The pain of the ghosts of Christmases past still linger, I’m still socially awkward and am aware of it and deeply embarrassed about it. What could or should have been is not what is, and what I have to work with is what is.
I’ve made a lot of progress this past year. I finally saw the light enough to realize that God loves me. That was the biggest and most influential revelation of my life. I knew that if I ever got to the point where I could believe that God loves me, it would change my life, and it did.
I think that in my anxious earnestness to “do Advent right,” that I might have missed the point. But God loves me, and God is with me, and I will walk in that knowledge.