This Advent has been a both-and experience for me this year. There have been some incredibly joyful moments: watching my daughter’s excitement about picking a Christmas tree, reading devotionals from our Advent calendar and enjoying my daughter’s insightful comments, and anticipating some fun time with family over the holidays. But there have also been some sobering moments: grieving the loss of my husband’s grandfather, keeping vigil at the bedside of a longtime parishioner and then burying him this week, and listening to stories of neighboring families who are struggling to make ends meet and who are dreading the disappointment of their children when Christmas comes. In some ways, the sobering moments have been hanging heavily for me. That reality has felt normal because Advent is meant to be a quieter, penitential season of preparation. But the lows have felt really low, and I have found myself longing for the highs – or at least some sense of joy.
That is why I am looking forward to two upcoming events at St. Margaret’s. First is the third Sunday of Advent. This Sunday is known as “Gaudete Sunday.” Basically, Gaudete Sunday is meant to offer a break from the penitential themes of Advent, instead emphasizing the joy of the coming of the Lord. For a full explanation about the name and origin, look here. This year, I am finding myself longing for Gaudete Sunday, needing more of the joyful moments like I mentioned above and less of the hard moments that keep coming my way. I am grateful for the Church’s gift of respite to us of this Sunday.
Oddly enough, I am also looking forward to our Blue Christmas service coming up in a little over a week. The service is meant to be for those who find Christmas to be a difficult or challenging time. Given that I was just saying I wanted a little more joy, it may sound funny that I am looking forward to this service. But the truth is, I am looking forward to sharing some of my Advent grief and sadness with others. Being able to acknowledge those feelings in the context of worship and have them affirmed seems like a tremendous gift.
I suppose that is both the nature of Advent and life – times of highs and lows, joys and grief, eager anticipation and dread. My hope is that if your Advent is taking on that both-and shape, you might lean on the Church to help you navigate that experience, and to find companions on the journey. Come join us for a holy Advent.