Advent Week 3: Joy
Advent is a time of year when many people have mixed emotions. For those of us working in schools, after the long Autumn term, it signifies the countdown to the Christmas holidays - a time to rest, catch our breath and recharge the batteries. For me and many children and young people growing up in the inner city, advent is also a time of deep sadness and loneliness. My parents divorced and it was at Christmas that I went back and forth between them, experiencing and living the brokenness and hurt of my family each and every day of this season. For many years, I hated Christmas – ‘a time of joy!
Today I don’t hate Christmas. A lot of healing has taken place in my life to this point. But, one of the key moments I can remember things changing for me, was when I spent a Christmas working at ‘Crisis at Christmas.’ It was a Christmas like no other. In the midst of helping others, many in desperately difficult situations, I found myself less concerned with me and more focussed on them. And in doing so, I seemed to rediscover ‘the joy of Christmas’ in my own life. My own struggles were still struggles, but my perspective was different. Jesus is called both a Man of Sorrows and a Man of Joy in the bible. I’d always wondered how could he be both. At ‘Crisis at Christmas’ I found out. There is great sadness at what is lost – families, relationships, love and caring – but with Jesus there is great joy at all the potential for change and transformation in our lives, and in the task of working towards it, no matter how tough, and draining it might be.
So much advertising and media pushes children and young people particularly to think about themselves at Christmas – ‘what am I going to get for presents,’ ‘what are other people going to give me,’ ‘what are we going to eat,’ ‘what are we going to watch on TV!’ And whilst some of these things may bring a temporary happiness into our lives, it rarely lasts into the new year. I think, perhaps, if we want to truly find the ‘joy of Christmas’ we will only find it in the self-sacrificial giving of ourselves to and for the lives of others and God.
And that’s a difficult and tough message to get across at Christmas to children and young people who are struggling. Perhaps it’s best expressed through the story of the God who loves them so much, even with all their hurt and anger and brokenness, who came to live amongst us and to self-sacrificially give himself to and for us. You gotta love the Gospel. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
Merry Christmas from all at XLP
XLP South London Youth Work manager