Advent Contemplations – Working Through The Rubble of Christmases Past

advent-candle11Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Up until a few years ago, I was so involved in the Church that during the Christmas season, I hardly even saw my own apartment. Ever since I was a young child, I’ve been singing and/or playing guitar and/or piano in choirs, participating in various parish council committees, helping to decorate the sanctuary for various church seasons…all of which involved spending hours and hours working in and around the church throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Lots of wonderful memories there. A day like today brings it all rushing back, and I miss it. I miss the atmosphere of waiting and expectation, I miss the music, I miss the playing out of age-old traditions, I miss being entrenched in a spiritual environment that constantly reminded me what Christmas is all about for me.

There are heart-reasons why I’m no longer involved in those Church activities, reasons that I can’t go into here on a public forum. Some of it is admittedly disillusionment with the institutional Church, some of it has a lot to do with not knowing how to reconcile myself with the exclusivity within the Church which is no longer palatable to me, and makes it almost impossible now for me to sit in the pew Sunday after Sunday and enjoy worshiping there, when so many of my friends would not be welcome to come and sit beside me. I’m not interested in theological (scriptural) justification for such exclusivity;  my reality right now is that I just feel too uncomfortable – and wounded – sitting there worshiping with all of my heart and soul, knowing that some of my most cherished friends don’t have that same freedom to come and worship openly with all of who they are. It’s as if I can look around the congregation and actually see the gaps, the holes…there are too many people missing from these gatherings. And I feel that absence so much that I can barely tolerate to be there myself these days.

So when my brother died in 2007 (after losing my Dad and Mom shortly before that), I no longer had the will or heart to go back to Church. I was admittedly furious with God for not healing my brother, but time and Love have helped me find my way through that rage, and my heart feels closer to God than ever before in my life. And yet, I still can’t bring myself to go back to Church. And so, for now, until new direction leads me out again, I worship Him here, in my home, with beautiful music, and my beautiful new purple Bible, and all of those beloved traditions still alive in my heart and memory. And it’s enough for me.

But there’s no denying that I still miss all of the wrappings of the Christmas season that the Church environment provides with such beauty and grace. To help keep my own Christmas environment reasonably holy, we normally don’t go shopping on a Sunday, only because I don’t want all of that noise and commercialism to intrude on the quiet sacredness that I prefer to infuse and nurture into my Advent Sundays. It still all means more to me than words can convey.

But now, that sacredness is also still tinged with shadows of remnant grief, with a still-tangible agony of absence that only gets sharper as the days inexorably drag me closer to Christmas Day. There is still a part of me that wants to hide and hibernate through this season, because I still miss my family too much to not feel the gaping holes throughout the day, especially all those empty chairs around that Christmas table. Despite my best efforts to focus on the positive and blessings that we DO enjoy in our here-and-now, there is still a profound agony and apprehension mixed in with the equally-profound cherishing of the sights, sounds and sanctity of this Christmas season.

I guess what it all comes down to is that while Advent reminds me of all that my heart loves and yearns for spiritually (which beloved priest-friends would assure me is already all mine here-and-now if I only have the eyes and faith to believe), it also reminds me of all that my heart loves and yearns for physically – which will never be mine again in this lifetime. That’s the harsh jagged truth that I have to learn how to co-exist with, without allowing it to destroy any more of the joy and celebration of Christmas present.

I’m still working on it. I’m better at it it this year than last year, but still not quite where I wanted to be by now. I never know until each Christmas season arrives, just how much progress I’ve been able to make in the past year. Christmas awakens all of the wounds that still haven’t completely healed yet. Christmas reveals all the rubble from Christmases past that I’m still fumbling my way through. I’m choosing to use some of that rubble (e.g., favourite morning traditions and recipes) to build new Christmases that I, my husband and step-daughter can all enjoy. And we’re doing okay, we’re slowly but surely rebuilding for ourselves a Christmas that we look forward to spending together.

Some of the rubble though, as dear as it was and perhaps always will be somewhere in the depths of my heart’s memory, has to be left behind in order for us to truly move forward and rekindle our joy in Christmas present.

That’s my journey this Advent. To wrestle with the rubble of Christmases past that no longer fits or serves me/us well, and to prepare for the Christmas that will most fill our hearts with the joy and celebration of simply being drawn together by the Love that we celebrate on Christmas morning.

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2012. All rights reserved.

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About Sharon

I love to write. I love to write myself into being right here right now. Writing releases something in me that needs wings, writing opens doors and windows that I often don't even realize are possible, writing helps me breathe out the dusty old, and to breathe in the new and possible. My hope is that maybe writing here in this blog will bring new light into these dusty old hallways and help me to clear out the thinking processes and mindsets that just don't work for me anymore. I seek to breathe new light and life into the nooks and crannies of a soul that has been feeling somewhat lost and frayed because of the last few patches of road I've had to travel.
This entry was posted in aging, anxiety, Christmas, coping, faith, grief, hope, inspiration, meaning, mental health, positive, spiritual, wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Advent Contemplations – Working Through The Rubble of Christmases Past

  1. I think we all have some baggage when it comes to these holidays, Sharon. I like that you are taking that rubble as building blocks for new traditions in your family. 🙂

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    • Sharon says:

      Thanks Ruth. I know so many people who suffer so much sadness at this time. My heart aches for them…and their suffering reminds me that I really want to build new traditions so that the holidays are more joyful than they are sad. It takes effort and perseverance, but it’s worth it, isn’t it!

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  2. cherylz1961 says:

    I was raised Catholic and loved advent. My mom had an advent centerpiece on our table w/4 candles. The holiday season can cause stress and anxiety. You might want to visit my blog of encouragement some time. Good for you and your effort to remain positive. This attitude helped me to recover from brain surgery last year.

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