It’s “Joy” week in the season of Advent.
There’s a cognitive dissonance there, right?
The world doesn’t feel very joyful.
It hasn’t been in a long time.
Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but pain doesn’t cease to be pain just because we drape it in lights and bows.
I can deck the long, dark hallways that hold the memories and painful moments of years past with as many decorations as I’d like, but I’d still know the harsh underbelly of it all.
The Christmas season is one of anticipation, of expectation.
But for the past 3 years, we’ve lived in constant anticipation of disaster. Our brains now programmed to study the horizon to catch the first glimpse of tragedy before it strikes.
We’re all bracing because we’ve been caught off guard by the harsh reality of the past two years too many times. We would rather live in apathetic acceptance that everything will go wrong than risk feeling a joy that might be taken from us.
So, Christmas feels a little broken this year.
It feels a bit heavier. The loss and isolation we’ve endured cannot be soothed with lights and wrapping paper. I live for simple joys. I love Christmas lights and decorations. They have never ceased to make me smile. But even still, I see the pain of those around me–the people who have lost, who are spending Christmas without a loved one, who are suffering through illness (physical or mental)–and I know that those simple joys, while comforting in the moment, are not the cure-all for the deeply rooted pain caused by existing in this broken world.
I would wrap lights around every scar if I thought the warm glow would soften the sharp edges. But it doesn’t. If anything, it magnifies them. Perhaps that is why the supposed “happiest time of the year” can also be the hardest. Joy often magnifies pain. We are surrounded by joys-to-the-world and it beckons the question of whether we honestly believe that. We carry our pain every day, but it is when contrasted with joy that we feel the weight even more.
But perhaps that is the point. Jesus didn’t come for the one who has it all together. He came for those broken, for those weighed down, for those dragging around that ball-and-chain of burdens. He came to offer grace and break open our cells. He was the joy that came to the world. He still is.
But it’s like the world inhaled when He left, and since then we haven’t exhaled. We’re all holding our breath with burning lungs and we won’t be able to release this agonizing breath until we’re home.
It’s okay to struggle with joy right now. Joy isn’t dependent on us, on our circumstances or emotions. Joy rests fully in Him, joy is fulfilled in Him, and His joy is enough for even the deepest of canyons within our hearts. The living embodiment of joy—the person of Joy—came and walked the earth. He is the balm that soothes our wounds and heals our souls. He is the song that lingers over us in our own silent nights.
He is the exhale we’ve all been waiting for.
And He’s coming back.
All I have this season is a broken hallelujah.
A quiet thank you in the car, on the way home from spending time with people who light up my heart.
A silent walk in an empty field, knowing He knows my heart when I’m too tired to put into words the ache of my soul.
I know He sees and hears, even when I don’t speak.
Though I wish with all my might that I could offer a praise worthy of all He has given me, all I have is the stillness of my soul.
I’ll raise my hands as high as I can, outstretching them towards the sky to point back to Him. Because all I have is a broken hallelujah. A cracked mosaic of prayers and praises, of pain and heartbreak, all lifted high to Him.
I’ll hold on to the hope He brought that night when He broke through the silence, and I’ll trust Him to break it again.
*This is a reposted piece from December 2021 and may be edited/updated*