AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Amy Hoyle
My husband, Scott, is a Clark Griswold-type man. His father and grandfather TRULY taught him everything he knows about exterior illumination. Every year his collection of lights grows, and grows, and grows. I joke with visitors if they stand still for too long he’ll wrap them in lights.
Light covers every tree, door post, fence post and window of our home at Christmas, and it’s BEAUTIFUL! My Sparky does it right!
And yet, despite the beauty of Advent, JOY can be hard to find. This year in particular, amid the lights and Christmas records, I am struggling with melancholy as I navigate the loss of my mother and face the myriad of emotions that come as we celebrate these first holidays and birthdays without my mom and dad.
I’ve always struggled with melancholy. My grandmother said my daddy was a melancholy child and melancholy man. We just seemed to feel and think more deeply than those around us and needed to retreat in order to ponder, process and hear the quiet voice of God over the loud voice of the world.
Previous denominations had no place for my melancholy. It just didn’t fit among their picturesque nativities, peppermint mocha lattes, Christmas cantatas, and general holly-jolly good cheer.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy these holiday traditions. It just didn’t seem to leave space for me to prepare Him room.
As Megan shared on Sunday, many of us have experienced worship that’s been infiltrated by the empire. A sanitized and safe brand that says we need to get it all together before God-With-Us can even happen.
As Scott Erickson, author of Honest Advent, so beautifully explains, “When everything is perfect, we’ll get that Christmas tingle. But what we see through the details of the birthing process is that the Christ story is actually about a God who brings salvation into the world through all those messy details.”
Jesus was born into an empire, but He refused to sing the empire song. His very arrival went against the story of the empire. Rather than descending from heaven in thunder and fire, He entered through humble, surrendered, obedient Mary.
A young girl, betrothed but not yet married, found favor with God to receive our Savior. And her responses came from a place of genuine faith and awe. She didn’t understand or know all the details, but she trusted God to work out each one.
Upon meeting with her cousin, Elizabeth, and learning they were both expecting, Mary burst into a song of praise.
And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked with favor on the lowliness of His servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name. His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’ Luke 1:46–55
God’s heart is to rescue, then lift up the poor and oppressed. His mercy is for those who fear Him; He lifts up the lowly; He fills the hungry with good things, and keeps His promises.
Where do you see yourself in Mary’s song?
Mary’s song over me has been a call to deeper faith, deeper trust, and an acceptance and surrender to the will of God. Like Mary, I am daily, moment-by-moment, called to surrender all expectations and be expectant of what God wants to do. My life is sheltered in His almighty wing.
Though I feel the deep loss of my parents, I equally feel the deep withness of God.
In Advent, we see the intersection of darkness and light, of looking back in remembrance and forward in hope. I appreciate the time to reflect and grieve, while also looking expectantly.
And I’m so grateful for The Parish—a place where Jesus is enough—where I am enough (whether joy-filled or melancholy).
I am so grateful for fellow sojourners who honestly acknowledge and make space for their own barren places, struggles and griefs, all through the lens of faith.
During Megan’s message Sunday, I was overcome with emotion. I am saddened by the power of the empire, yet so grateful for the liberation song Jesus sings over my life.
More than any time in my life, I feel the WITHNESS and ABIDING of Jesus.
Though life continues to swirl, I feel the thrill of HOPE found in Jesus, alone. I’m grateful His hope, joy, peace and love aren’t grounded in my circumstances, but in Christ alone. My heart is tethered to the manger and the cross.