A New Kind of Advent

Last evening, the congregation council of the church where I serve as pastor approved a 12-week medical leave of absence for me, to begin January 2, 2017. So I’ve got about five weeks now until that starts. The season of Advent just began, a season of waiting and preparing, watching and seeking. That’s how I feel right now. I’m waiting in this place, waiting for the light to shine in.

My depression has been bad this year, has been since the summer. It’s been worse than usual. I’ve wondered if I should leave my career. I’ve wondered if I should leave my family. I’ve wondered if I should just end it all. I’m not in any of those places right now. It’s stabilized, calmed down, eased some. But I’m still not happy. I’m still feeling stuck. I’m still not seeing the joy around me.

But there’s hope. There’s hope, and I’m heading toward that hope right now. I see that hope in the twelve weeks that are just a month away. I see that hope in the kindness of the leadership of my congregation for allowing me this time. I see that hope in the words and faces of so many people in the congregation who support me, and want me to get better. I see that hope when I remember what this season of Advent is really about: waiting for the coming of Christ. When I remember what Christmas is really about: the in-breaking of the Light into a dark, dark world. The shattering of the darkness by the light of peace and joy and eternity. Christians proclaim that the light came into the world 2000 years ago through the womb of an unwed peasant. The darkness still persists…the darkness always persists. It’s what darkness does. But I see that hope, the hope that Christmas is real…not the story of a baby in a manger, not the childhood joy of Santa Claus, not the good spirit that fills the world. That’s all good, but the real hope is that Christmas is real. The incarnation of God into our world is real. There is hope in my darkness.

I have been listening to a song while writing this post: Break of Dawn by Blue Stone. It just feels like Advent to me. It feels like hope in the dark, the shattering of the darkness. I have a lot of work ahead of me. This medical leave isn’t going to be a vacation, but a time to really work hard with my therapist, my doctor, and a spiritual director I’ve yet to find. But it’s going to be worth it.

But now…it’s Advent. I’ve got five weeks of waiting for the leave to start. Five weeks of preparing. Five weeks of planning and listening and praying. Then we’ll get started.

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