Outside the window, it seems like yesterday, November’s naked branches were arching up toward the sky like arthritic fingers. I delighted in those dogwood flowers when they showed off their dazzling pink hues this spring, and smiled at the verdant life and color of the bright green leaves that shaded the grass beneath all summer. Fall came along and those leaves quickly dried and darkened, and quick as a flash, December arrived, trees gnarled and naked again.

I look forward to life coming to those branches once more, to looking out the window and smiling as the trees seem to blush like half a dozen bridesmaids scattered about our lawn in coordinating shades of pink.

There’s a bit of time that needs passing before we get there.

December. For some folks, it’s the most wonderful time of year. These are the days they count down toward, look forward to. You know the ones — the folks who have an extra sparkle in their eyes as October draws to a close. The first to get the tree up, the last to take it down.

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For others, this is the most depressing season of all — the season that brings reminders of days that seemed warmer and brighter and happier in some distant past. Folks thinking of faces that won’t be gathering around the table this year. Traditions that feel broken because that certain someone’s not around to make them happen.

Nearly three years ago I spent a week wandering in and out of a hospital room where my Dad lay barely breathing. The days stretched long with spritzes of hand sanitizer and transitions to the lobby to nurse a three-month-old, more hand sanitizer and transitions to a room to stare at one of the most important people in my 30-some years of life as he lay dying. I ran into a precious old friend whose Dad had a heart attack the same day, was lying in a bed one floor up. We marveled that we were experiencing the same sufferings.

A few days later her Dad was home, healthy and recovering.

A few days later, my eldest son, just four, was laying my bright yellow tulip on the casket for me because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I watched that friend of mine’s Dad dance at her wedding last year. He’s a kind-hearted and gentle, good man. I was happy to see him again just a few weeks ago. I’m thankful her story was different.

Mine was a season for grieving, hers was a season for gratitude.


Swinging by the tree

Our precious little fourth bundle of joy arrived seven weeks ago, just a few days after a friend, due two days before me, lost her precious little fourth bundle of joy.

And from far-off corners a dear old friend of mine and I chat over Skype, me introducing baby four to her eighteen-month old, and us grieving together the loss of her second baby at just ten weeks on the inside. Her voice quivers just a little in the telling of it – they don’t know if it was a boy or a girl.

But this she knows and this she says: I could feel God with me through it, and it’s amazing: I’ve never been angry.

Words don’t come easily for me, as we chat away my afternoon in North Carolina, her evening in Stuttgart.

Now is a season of grief, and now is a season of gratitude.

And Advent is the season of the coming — and, for us folks in the northern hemisphere, perhaps it’s no coincidence that this coming takes place very near the absolute shortest, darkest day of the year. The Light of the World showed up when things were at their darkest — and these days, when our world and our lives are at their darkest? They’re the days when we stop to celebrate the coming of the Light.

He arrived during a period known as the Pax Romana — a time when the Roman Empire reached its peak in terms of land area and population, and experienced about 200 years of economic prosperity and peace.

For the people benefiting from Roman rule it was a season of peace, but for those oppressed under Roman rule? Perhaps it wasn’t.



He arrived into peace that only lasted for a season, peace that only existed for some — to bring about peace that will be everlasting. Good News of great joy for all men…

If yours is a season of comfort and joy, good tiding and life and light, be sure to share that goodness with others, for whom the season isn’t so Merry and Bright. Down the street or halfway round the world, or both — celebrate the coming of the Light by shining it wherever you can. Know that this, too, it just a season — share and love and bless and trust that when your season changes others will do the same for you.

If yours is a season where the branches feel naked and gnarled, a season that feels more like grief and less like gratitude, know that it is still exactly this: a season. And right at the start, when the floods dried up and a season of great, worldwide devastation came to an end, a promise came with it:

“While the earth remains,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
winter and summer,
and day and night,
shall not cease.” {Gen. 8:22}

God promised the seasons would keep coming, and they have. They surely have.

So whether these days feel merry and bright, or you’re feel hard-pressed and discouraged, know that, this, too, is a season, and as a good friend of mine reminded me the other day, we are a weary world, rejoicing.

If yours feels like a weary world, you can still stay in the story, you can still do some rejoicing.

The Good News to all men isn’t just that He came, it’s that He’s coming again.