When people ask me why I moved to Florida, I explain that when I was looking for colleges at the age of 18, year-round palm trees and sunshine sounded like the way to go. What teenager wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to study poolside in the winter, pretending she was in some Riviera resort? Yes, I 100% did this. However, people closest to me know that I moved to Florida because I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (yes, the acronym is actually SAD). Year-round Sunshine is not just the paradise of a young adult, it is critical to my mental health. My psyche is literally afraid of the dark. When the sun sets earlier and the weather cools down, I move into a state of sadness. I don’t want to leave my home, I’m completely unmotivated to be productive or exercise, and all I want to do is eat carbs like my life depends on it. If you can relate to this, you are not alone.
It is not an accident that the liturgical calendar invites us into Advent as we drop into cold, dark winter. While the world around us is caught up in the hustle and bustle of Holiday preparations, we, as Christians, are called into a season of stillness, mindful of the ongoing plight of oppression and injustice in our world. Advent is a season of being one with the “people in darkness” and “those who dwell in the shadows” (Isaiah 9:2). If this is a season of sadness or grief for you, know that you are in good company. I invite you to embrace this season of reflection, especially if it comes with a side of depression, because we believe that Advent is also a season pregnant with hope and expectation. The promise of Advent, the coming of Jesus, is just as relevant to us today as it was for the Chosen People awaiting their Messiah.
Our God is a God of new beginnings, and He promises the dawn of great light (Isaiah 9:2) that will end our winter, our season of sadness, and the shadows of our own shame. Our God who makes all things new, pulls us out of the pit of darkness into a new light of hope, just as every year we celebrate the eternal God born to live among us to dispel the darkness of hate and violence in the world. We embrace this Advent experience and cling to the hope of a Messiah who saved us through His life of ministry and hope as much as He saved us through His death. This is the good news we are to shout from the mountaintops (Isaiah 42:11), that God incarnate was born to dwell among us, that Jesus lived a life modeling the Good News of grace that saves us from our sin, and that in Jesus’ death the Spirit of God tore the veil in two, shaking the world to its core, announcing that the barriers between us and God would be no more.