‘Tis the Season
By NANCY PATRICK
Holidays are here again. ‘Tis the season for happiness and joy. Beautiful Christmas lights adorn houses as lighted Christmas trees sparkle from living room windows. Christmas music provides atmosphere in all the stores as shoppers look for the perfect gifts for their loved ones. With so much joy and excitement around, why do some of us fail to share in the jubilance?
I have often written about depression and its far-reaching effects, but the past two years of dealing with the COVID pandemic has reminded me of my vulnerability to the darkness that lurks nearby. I find myself feeling lethargic and sad. I look at my clean house but think I see dirt. I easily become angry with people who display rude behavior (according to my standards).
Our country’s political, social, and moral divisions weigh my spirit down. Watching controversial trials, Supreme Court considerations, and Congressional infighting clouds my mind. When I cannot understand why or how other people see the same things I do but interpret them in completely different ways, I feel confused and frustrated.
I worry about the global issues that threaten the earth. For example, global warming causes huge climate changes that can threaten our way of life. The trash in the oceans kills marine life and also endangers entire species. Destruction of the rain forests also portends changes in the atmosphere that may impact the earth’s ability to provide the many benefits it does such as oxygen, soil retention, habitats for wildlife, as well as other ecological boons.
As I feel myself sinking into the abyss of depression this season, I look for ways to cling to the hope of Advent and all it means to Christian faiths. This time of waiting and anticipation as we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth gives us pause to consider our values.
Our churches display beautiful decorations that symbolize the season. The Christmas trees in my own church, adorned with handmade Chrismons made by the children, highlight the purity and holiness of this holiday. Our altar table displays the traditional Advent candles lit by a different family each Sunday.
The solemnity of these symbolic observances gives us the opportunity to consider their meanings—how long they have been observed and by how many cultures over many centuries. We practice traditions for a simple reason—to teach the importance of remembrance. They bring us back to our roots, to the importance of our spiritual heritage.
I just watched the movie Coco, a beautifully animated movie that explains and celebrates Dia de los Muertos, a tradition in Hispanic cultures. The tradition, observed on November 1, signifies the passing of ancestors and the importance of remembering them and the value of their lives. The significance of that day—All Saints’ Day—encourages us to remember and honor those who have gone before us.
This idea of remembrance also relates to the practice of Advent as we remember all that God has done for his people throughout history. We remember creation, the fall of humankind, the first destruction of the world, the rebirth of earth with Noah and his ark, the continuation of God’s plan through Abraham, David, and then Jesus.
Cultures continue by passing down memories. Every culture does this or it dies. Remembering and honoring those who have died before us is not only an obligation but also a privilege.
In 2007, after completing his Ph.D. in theology at Baylor University, my son Jason wrote an article for the Baptist Standard. The title, “The Two Sides of Advent,” suggests that where we are in life may impact our perceptions of Advent.
In essence, Jason wrote about several tragedies in his life that occurred near Advent season. He pastored churches during his entire theological education, so he had support from congregants in those churches. His church members saw his suffering and became their pastor’s pastor during these difficult times. They truly represented the hope and love of Advent even in the face of darkness and feelings of hopelessness.
Advent also makes me thankful even as I grieve the loss of my Aunt Faye, the last of my family members of the Greatest Generation. I find hope in knowing that as long as someone remembers Aunt Faye, she continues to live—here as well as in heaven. I also treasure the memories of my parents who died in 2012 and 2014. They will live as long as their great-grandchildren live because those children will remember them.
I can also find hope to survive my current darkness by thanking God for my family. Although not perfect, my family gives me security through the assurance of their love, which remains steadfast. Many times, I disappointed my parents and even broke their rules (just as I have with God), but I never doubted their love. My family now continues that love and support.
A verse that brings me comfort when I feel alone or adrift in a stormy sea is Job 13:15, which reads in the NIV, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” I can identify with Job’s own sense of desperation when it seemed the world had turned against him and his friends taunted him to curse God and die. Job’s reply rebuked his persecutors by saying that even if God killed him, Job would still trust in Him.
That statement represents the ultimate declaration of faith. To me, it means that if my family, friends, colleagues, and religious leaders turned against me, I would trust God to remain by my side and continue to provide His love and my security.
I hope that if others feel the approach of a holiday darkness, they will find some solace in my words. I can do little to change world affairs. My contributions to global problems hardly exist, but rather than bemoaning my seeming insignificance, I will desperately cling to Advent and to the promises God fulfills through his Son.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing