This is the first holiday season since my mother passed away from cancer.
I knew it would be hard, but I’ve been shocked at how hard it actually has been. The loss feels physical—I feel the sadness in my bones. I’m sure many of you know how that feels. The deep ache, the longing for what was, the memories causing your shoulders to shake with sorrow. It’s real, it’s hard, it’s visceral. Sometimes it feels too heavy to want to celebrate, to want to enter into joy with my kids. Some of you have felt that ache for many years. Sadness looms large during this season; I get it.
So I’ve been wondering how to lean into this Advent season even in the midst of such grief and sadness. For you, it could also be the loss of a person but for others it could be the loss of a dream, a divorce, or just general brokenness of the world. How do we step into a season full of joy and celebrating when we carry such sadness in our hearts? How do we turn our mourning into dancing? How do we hold all the sorrow in one hand and carols, decorating, parties, and presents in the other?
Here’s what I’m learning: it’s through hope and presence. Those two words to me, hope and presence, capture Christmas. We hope for redemption. Redemption of the world and all the sorrow it carries, but also the redemption of our story. Hope that one day all the sad things will come untrue. And what hope do we have outside of the Gospel of Jesus?
Our hope is wrapped up in the waiting, the adventing, of Jesus's birth. All the redemption of the world and our story (and all the brokenness that comes with it) is wrapped up in the baby inside of Mary's womb. I imagine the angels holding their breath waiting for the birth. All the heavenly beings stopping to watch the greatest story unfold. I mean, it’s crazy right? But that’s what we are celebrating this season. God himself entering into our space. Taking on all the confines of flesh, just to be with us. Our Immanuel—God with us.
And it’s that presence that makes it possible for us to fully embrace this time of celebrating. We can rejoice in the midst of sorrow because this is not the end of our story. He is indeed with us.
The God of the universe, here in our sorrow with us.
And that’s the beauty of Advent, right? We can rejoice because the longing of his presence has already become true. The world and its troubles and our story are all becoming redeemed.
So how can we honor our sorrow and also fully enter into this season of joy? Let’s quiet our hearts. Let’s create space for stillness and contemplation. Let’s not busy ourselves with parties every weekend and not leave room for our sadness. Let’s be honest about our troubles. And then let’s invite God’s presence, our Immanuel, speak into that. Let’s love our neighbors well and make time for them; they too might be in the throes of brokenness this Advent season. Let’s be present for our community that we’ve gathered around us, outstretch our arms to those we might normally keep at arms distance.
Rejoice! Our Savior has indeed come among us. His presence, our hope.
Sharon Morginsky is a mom of four young kids and is a church planter’s wife in a very diverse and transitional part of the city of Denver. She has her Masters in Social Work and has a deep passion for racial reconciliation and healing of economic disparity. In her free time she enjoys being a doula, gardening, hiking, and writing, and is currently learning how to play the ukulele.