The darkness of my apartment flees as soon as I light the purple Advent candle in front of me. I kneel in front of my coffee table, watching the flickering of the flame. It is late. I always think Christmas comes fast, but this year it’s come ever so slow. As the pace of my life has slowed down this year, my ushering in of Christmas has been slow and steady too.
I watch the candlelight dance, the abstract reflection against my television set. I sing a hymn, and my voice is low and soft; the only other sound in my apartment is the hum of the dishwasher.
O come, O come, Emmanuel.
At once, I find myself crying in the loneliness of my apartment. It is just me, alone, and although I’m alone every night, tonight I can feel it more sharply as I ask Emmanuel to come and be with me.
And yet, the paradox of Christmas is that I know He already is.
I feel as though I don’t have much to offer Jesus this year. I feel tired and worn, and as my candle burns lower, I realize I feel like I’m burning to a waxy stump too.
This year, I decorated my apartment with all I could muster — a tree and lights and lanterns and candles and wreaths and Scripture and dried out oranges I baked in my oven. And even though each morning I wake up to the see the lights sparkle on my tree, even though I watch every Christmas movie I can find on Netflix and drink hot chocolate most evenings and read the Christmas story over and over and over, none of the holiday magic seems to touch the ache inside of me.
It is an ache much deeper than just getting through a horrific year.
It is an ache much deeper than dashed dreams and disappointments.
It is an ache of longing — an ache only God Himself can touch.
As I write this, an eleven-year-old boy struggles to survive in my city. He was hit by a pickup truck yesterday as he walked home from school. I read in an article that the crossing guard flailed his arms, trying to save him. It was no use. The boy’s family holds his hand in his hospital bed today, as the news articles about him are shared over and over. I see his parents’ names circulate my Facebook page hundreds of times, each post begging for prayer and a miracle.
I cry as I pray for him. I don’t know him. I don’t know his parents. But it’s December and a young boy is dying, and it’s not supposed to be this way.
I ask Jesus for a miracle — a Christmas miracle — because doesn’t Hallmark promise that those are the best kind? But the truth is, I don’t know if his family will get their miracle. I don’t know if their Christmas this year will be marked with joy or with sorrow.
Somehow pain hurts so much more at Christmas time. Sorrow clashes against my garland and lights and cheerful songs on the radio.
The candlelight flickers in front of my face, and I think of that young boy. I pray again, asking Jesus to hold him and his parents this Christmas, to breathe the breath of God into his body.
I keep singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and I can feel the presence of Emmanuel in my apartment as I sing.
My home feels smaller, quieter. I still ache, but the ache is different now. I can feel the presence of God with me, and tears stream down my eyes — sadness for the boy, exhaustion for our world, but something else, too.
As I watch my purple Advent candle continue to light up my apartment, I am struck by the good news of great joy that never fades — even in the midst of sorrow.
There is awe here too —
Awe for a God who put on brown skin and was born on a dark night to a world that would treat Him cruelly.
Awe for a King who deemed the poor in spirit as the most blessed.
Awe for a Savior who saw you and me and decided we were utterly worth saving.
As I pray for the boy, for our world, for miracles of every shape and size, I make space for the awe too.
I take a deep breath, blow out my candle, and everything is dark.
But the Light of the World is coming.
No, He is already here.Leave a Comment