oh come all ye faithful

I love Christmas.  I love almost everything about it.  And for the most part – it’s not about the presents.  Although I will say that I love being able to pick out the perfect gifts for those I love the most.
Today I officially rang in the Christmas season in a couple of ways but mostly by my first viewing of Elf for the season.  I’m not even really sure what I did before this movie came out to officially feel Christmas-y!  But alas, I watched it today with my roommate Cathy, I assembled our Christmas tree which I bought this morning at Target (at 4 a.m.) and we are ready to go!
As always, the ringing in of the season finds me a little conflicted emotionally…a little melancholy and a lot joyful for what the season brings and means to me personally.
This season was hard for me last year, dealing with my dad’s death.  I remember writing in my journal how much I hated the fact that I had to celebrate Christmas while being heartbroken.  Christmas is a time of family and while traditions have been hard for a few years in my family there was always the hope that some day we would be able to celebrate as a whole family again.  That hope ended quite suddenly for us, for me, last year and it was hard.
Last Sunday I was in Church listening to an amazing sermon by a fellow seminarian where he talked about the verses in Acts 20 where Paul is talking about going into Jerusalem even thought he knows not what he will find there.  Paul writes the words: “but I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24 – ESV).  Tom likened the verse to race metaphors and talked about how we aren’t finished with the race yet, and how amazingly it is that we have a God that is with us, that sends a Spirit to guide us when we are weary and tired and feel like we cannot go on.  That our focus should be on finishing the course – the ministry that God has bestowed upon us.
So I sat there and suddenly realized … I am weary.  I am tired.  I am hurt.  The week before had been extremely hard on me and I sat there last Sunday and began to put my finger on just where I was emotionally.  I looked back on where I had been a year ago and realized that a year ago last Sunday I was in the midst of daily visits to the hospital.  Waiting to hear news on what was going on with my dad and when he would regain consciousness – if it was going to happen.  I sat in Church realizing just how broken I still am – looking forward to the one-year anniversary of losing my dad.  And realizing that while I am surrounded by a lot of people that I love and love me, I feel alone in this big city.  I realized that I miss my family more this year than in years past and that I was coming up on a holiday season that would be hard, once again.
Enter in Thanksgiving week.  A lot of people left town – which doesn’t help the loneliness.  And those that did stay around tried to keep me included but I have shrunk back, taking time to myself to figure out what the next week and a half is going to look like for me.  I have a few choices – do I completely shut myself off from those around me and have a “dark day” ala Luke from Gilmore Girls?  or do I attempt to live into this community around me and allow people to see the real me, even if it’s a little broken.
I pray that I would have the strength to fully engage here, to allow others to see the places in me that I don’t like.  That I would allow myself to fully feel and experience the emotions that are totally normal and allowed in these circumstances.
Although all these …feelings… can be found just below the surface with me lately, I do also feel a certain kind of warm fuzziness that is Christmas cheer.  I do love it oh so much and am hoping it will help me a long in this grieving process.
Mostly I believe in a God that is so much bigger than all this pain and he will see me through this pain and sorrow because He is a good God.  He is a God who sent his Son to the earth for us, so that we would have someone who looked like us that we could follow.  And for that reason I will celebrate the Christmas season, it is (when done well) a beautiful reminder of an unbelievably gracious God.

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