Warning: this blog is not censored.
I want to tell you about Advent; that’s what I began writing about when I started this new post, but I realize that I can’t share with you why I love Advent without talking about why I don’t like Christmas. So… prepare yourself for some Christmas hating.
Christmas stopped being fun for me when I was 11 (exactly ten days after my 11th birthday, to be exact) because it was the first Christmas after my parents split up. I remember the awkward switch off in the parking lot of a Burger King (or some other fast food establishment), leaving one family gathering a bit late and the waiting parent being pissed because some of their time was stolen.
Happy birthday, Jesus
I took the role as people pleaser in my immediate family, so Christmas has often been filled with me watching the clock, making sure I leave in time to get to the other parent’s place at a specific time, regardless of the pleas from my family to “just stay a bit, it’s getting late, why don’t you just stay the night here?”
Christmas has seemed more like a battle to fight in the bigger war of life.
O come, O come Emmanuel
Last year was chaotic. Most of the adults were drunk, things with my dad were not good, and I found myself sitting on the couch with my shoulders up to my ears because I was so goddamn anxious. All I could think was, “I paid $400 to fly back for this shit? I’m coming home next year in October when there’s no national holiday.” Of course I didn’t fly back in October; I decided to go somewhere else instead.
I’ve grown up hearing that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, but we don’t celebrate it that way. I cannot remember the last birthday party I was invited to and was asked to bring gifts for every person there except the birthday boy/girl.
“Hey, Jesus! Thanks for inviting me to this party! Totally appreciate you thinking of me like that!… what?… I need to bring how many gifts?… shit…”
And why, oh why, do we care about Jesus on this one day when nothing in our lives or in our character reflects that we care at all for the other 364 days? What game are we playing? Christmas is the cultural worship of stuff; why else would Americans spend $650 billion for shit from Black Friday through December 25th? Massive credit card debt for toys that will be forgotten, clothes that will be thrown out in a few months, and electronics that will be forgotten when the new model comes out next year.
Sorry, not worth it for me.
This year I had leaned more towards just not going home for Christmas. It would be hard but I just don’t find it restful or relaxing. Lo and behold, since my job is in retail, November and December are blacked out for vacations. No one is allowed to request off, so that sealed the deal.
This is my first time ever to not be home for Christmas (but even that statement leads to a bigger question of where is home?). There is a part of me that is sad; I’ll miss hearing Pa read the Christmas story. I’ll miss seeing my sister-in-law and her baby belly. I’ll miss making my brother hug me every time we’re in the same room. I’ll miss the rest I find at my mom’s house. I’ll miss the people.
What I am excited about is this year I have space to see what it is about this season that I enjoy, that I find worth celebrating, and then figuring out how I want to celebrate those things. The rest of the year is chaotic and loud. Advent, to me, is the calm before that storm.
Yes, Advent. It’s the season in the Liturgical calendar that leads up to the celebration of Jesus’ birth; weeks filled with pregnant anticipation, longing, desire, hope, peace. Weeks given to reflection, ponder, and celebration of new life, life in Christ. Advent bumps up against culture because it is not about stuff, it is about inner preparation and transformation, neither of which can be bought, sold, or made.
I’ve worked through a lot of theological mess this year in my classes, and it has been fucking hard. It’s not over, either, but I’m glad I’ve finally pushed into some of my wounding and discovered that God is more gracious and loving that I could have ever imagined; more kind, compassionate, and holy that anyone could have ever taught me,
and more womanly than you will ever care to admit
but that’s okay, because God is bigger than our disagreements about God, too. I’ve found that by working through the knots of my theological pain has led me to this place of Advent, and I hope to share it with you.
I hope you do, too.