Christ's coming.

 Christ's coming by Erika Spitler

This time of year as a child was characterized by a different world. I practically breathed in Tchaikovsky's famous score while rehearsing hour after hour for my studio's ballet performances of The Nutcracker. Step, arabesque, and pas de bourrée meant everything to the young girls who danced as Clara. When I was 11, I got to dance that very choreography. It was my favourite Sunday in December (or ever, possibly).

Back then, the holiday season began with that frenzy of hairspray and false eyelashes and bouquets. To me, Christmastime was cousins in town, coordinating outfits for family photos, wish-lists curated from AmericanGirl catalogs, presents made by hand, church on the 24th, and Kenny G on the speakers as we giggled over boxes and bows and Barbies the next morning. We sang happy birthday to Jesus and it felt like the most wonderful time. It felt like something merry and bright.

We're four days away from Christmas and I've not sent out cards or seen the lights or sung carols and hymns or put up decorations. In commitment to our yearly tradition, my dad, siblings, and I did pick out a tree together. It's rugged and so tall it's unbalanced. It fits us well.

When December 1st rolled around, I made a list of things I wanted to do this season. It turns out, nostalgia isn't reason enough to carry out plans or activities. I did, however, manage to do one thing off that list, and that was borrow Russ Ramsey's Behold the Lamb of God. Let me tell you, getting to read through this book the last 21 days has entirely reshaped my perspective on Christmas. It has helped me see and appreciate the beauty of Advent in a way I haven't before. I am seeing the grand narrative from Genesis to Revelation, understanding a tad more of this "already, but not yet" tension. Oh, how I feel it.

In today's reading, day 21, Jesus was born at last. This moment—His appearance on earth—was one I'd waited all month to read. I love wondering what it must have been like, all those years ago, when "God pushed into the world the long-expected Prophet, Priest, and King" as Kevin DeYoung writes. As I remember Christ's first coming, I find my heart simultaneously leaning in—expecting, waiting, and longing for His promised return.

This December is not the same kind of wonderful I knew as a girl and gosh! I'm finding that's okay. Heartache certainly doesn't pause so we can be all holly jolly. Some of you are like me, feeling unable to lay aside your grief, confusion, and disappointment. It's exhausting, isn't it? Especially when you feel demanded to evoke feelings of warmth and cheer, because hello, it's Christmas.

I sat across from my counselor on Monday, wanting to deal with the emotional triggers I've had the last month. Her soft eyes welled with tears, giving me the permission to break and cry. This process of moving toward healing is unrehearsed. I stumble and fall, saying things I never wish to say in anger, feeling ashamed for situations beyond my control, confessing where I've gone wrong, and yet oddly holding onto hope all at once.

Before I leave her office, we close in prayer. She thanks God for His son Jesus, and I do, too. We know we wouldn't be there, clinging to an eternal hope this season if it wasn't for our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Like our tree, I'm a bit rugged and off-center this Advent season. But I'll keep leaning, awaiting His glorious return. That's all I know to do.