Today is the first Sunday in Advent.
Soon it will be December.
I have very mixed feelings about these facts.
Actually, my feelings aren’t mixed. They just aren’t mapping to what I might normally be feeling during this time of year.
I’m the girl that normally sneaks in Christmas music starting in September. I’m the girl that used to revel in December – loved everything about it, loved all the tinsel trappings, the cookies, the traditions, the lights, the cookies, the gift-giving. Not to mention the cookies.
December meant Christmas and my birthday and New Year’s. It meant family and friends and parties. It was 31 days of awesome, wrapped in shiny happy paper.
That’s how I remember December normally feeling to me.
But this year, as the twelfth month has neared, I’ve watched the holiday decorations go up around town with unease. I didn’t feel the urge to listen to Christmas music in September. And not in October, not even in November. This worried me a bit; was my soul broken? What was wrong with me?
The thing is, I’m just not ready to give up on autumn. I’m not ready to find myself in December.
Autumn seemed a perfect match to my mood this year – burning colors and muted sounds of crunching leaves. Deep breaths of cool air, after a stretch of many months which had felt so stifling. In autumn there is the excitement of new beginnings, but it’s also a life cycle ending. The pace of life quickens, as daylight hours fade. Communities gather around classes, football games, Halloween parades, and Thanksgiving tables, but there are hours and hours for solitary walks and quiet reflection. There is joy layered with sadness; promise mingled with pain.
My heart was at home with this duality, this autumn.
It had fought a hard fight all year to arrive at this season, and at a place of acceptance that SAD is not BAD. We don’t have to slap a smile over the hurt. We don’t have to apologize for our feelings, we can feel them fully and acknowledge that they are part of what makes us human. SAD is not BAD, dear readers. There is a season for it.
And maybe I’m worried that December requires me to return to a place of pretending. Because December (at least the way I’m looking at it right now) seems like a la-la happy-clappy cloying land of forced cheerfulness. And maybe I’m worried there won’t be space for sadness in a month that office building décor, Kay Jewelers commercials, and Mariah Carey holiday tunes seem to indicate should be an up-beat dance of delight.
But if I can look past all that glitters1 and think about Advent's core message instead, with its story of a people (and world) waiting longingly for a change, an arrival, for justice and peace – well, that sounds like a story I can inhabit during this next season. There is confusion, there is an ache, but there are angels singing over it2. That’s a story I think I’m ready to explore.
So goodbye, Autumn, you with your red and orange and gold-colored leaves. And hello, Advent, you with your mystery and blue-tinted longing and candle-flickers of hope. I’m ready to let you show me a thing or two.
1That was a combined Shakespeare/Mariah Carey reference. Did you get it? Ok, good.
2Absolutely not a Mariah Carey reference.