It’s officially winter, and the Christmas-holiday-season is in full effect. I can nearly feel the cut of the cold breeze outside as I sit inside fingers cloaked around a hot and freshly brewed chai tea. Looking through an expansive window from a local coffee shop in Greenville, South Carolina, I examine withered trees bearing the battle scars of surrendered leaves due to wrestling with an early Fall.
The common busyness of people walking and people watching on sidewalks, benches, waterways and patches of manicured grass has lulled to a few brave souls executing their mandatory A to B commute. The city looks lonely.
It’s no secret that the presence of the holidays ushers in wanted--and at-times--unwanted anticipation and change. For many, holiday anticipation can carry “exaggerated” levels of loneliness and depression. According to Adam K. Anderson, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto,
“the bombardment of media during the holidays showing images of smiling families and friends often causes people to start questioning the quality of their own relationships.”
Studies reveal many people are experiencing what is called SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as seasonal depression. This makes sense to me on several levels. Sadly, I know many people who experienced the bulk of their abuse while family spent the holidays together. The temperature changes, the songs and the gathering with uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins serves a consistent reminder of the worst days of their lives.
If your mind and heart were visible during this season, what would an onlooker, like me, uncover?
For some, maybe even you, a richly Christian word like "Advent" may conjure up fear or disappointment. Historical Christianity teaches that Advent is a season set apart for anticipating the coming of Jesus. Yet for many, Advent means “I’ll be depressed ‘advent-ually.’” If this is you, you’re not alone in this struggle of the mind. You are also not alone, right where you are, spiritually.
Sincere Christians are tempted to turn their focus away from Jesus to earnestly commit to the American dream, self protection, or whatever the online buzz of the day may be. The pressure to be more righteous or at least better than I was a year ago is also ever present. Preachers seem to be covering their listeners with a solid and heavy dose of the gospel of grace on a weekly basis, however, self-justification projects still loom. The pull of commercial ideals and the pressure of spiritual maintenance or growth has cruelly shifted the season meant for celebratory anticipation into advent-ual anxiety and depression.
This is exactly what Satan serves up for the holidays. Do you realize he, Satan, is behind all sinning? (John 8:44)
Satan is behind the distractions that are encouraging misery instead of a spirit of merry. The scriptures provide a different narrative to believe, focus on and follow.
In 1922, Helen H. Lemmel wrote a hymn based on Hebrews 12:2, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." Jesus is what Advent anticipates and celebrates. Television, shopping malls and online ads mention Christmas as the bait in order to switch your focus to what “you need” and “others want.” However, in “Advent’s coming,” believers are reminded to set apart mental, relational and certainly spiritual time and space to fix their eyes on Jesus… and the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Jesus alone can and does offer what all humanity wants and needs (John 10:10).
Satan is known as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), in contrast with the “Prince of Peace” – whose Kingdom is of peace (Isaiah 9:6). There’s only two kingdoms, dark or light (1 John 3:8).
Which kingdom are you fixing your eyes on?
Advent is about remembering Jesus’ finished work that secured your salvation. Advent is also about anticipating Jesus’ glorious return, when He will eliminate all distractions and devastations. Even death will die. His coming will cancel anxiety and fear.
If Advent has become advent-ual depression or the loneliest time of the year for you, don’t lose hope. What the enemy of God, Satan, has been doing in secret is now in the light (Ephesians 5:11)! As Christians we have read how the story ends. We are described as pilgrims, aliens, strangers and sojourners in this life. James wrote that our stay in this life is like a mist. This life is so short that unless you are watching intently for those vapor particles, you’ll miss them (James 4:14).
- Advent-ually your depression will die in the light of His glory and grace.
- Advent-ually you fears will flee in the light of His glory and grace.
- Advent-ually your losses will lose their grip in the light of His glory and grace.
- Advent-ually your abusers will no longer hold the place in your life in the light of His glory and grace.
My friend, Advent-ually Jesus Christ will return and “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Until that day, turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
-- Chris Armfield, Lead Pastor of CITYLIGHTS
Photo Credit: Chelsea Francis via Unsplash CC0