I’ve always struggled in the winter. Not only does the cold slow me down, but the shorter, darker days leave me depressed and unmotivated. I’m normally a health nut, eating right and exercising every day, but this time of year, I indulge in cookies and donuts and am lucky if I hit 5,000 steps on my Fitbit Alta HR. The farm chores seem harder and less rewarding.
To add to the depression, I’m put off by the obligations of parties and gift exchanges that have so very little to do with the season of Advent. I enjoy the quiet contemplation that fits so well with Advent, but I live in a world that calls people to shop until they drop and to attend one party after another. Instead of preparing the way for the Lord, the world around me consumes and consumes and consumes some more.
For me, Christmas existed to remind me of how much I wasn’t like others. As a kid, I hated opening box after box of things I didn’t really want, pretending to love each one. As a mother, I hated the ridicule I received because I taught my daughter the stories of Saint Nicolas rather than following along with American traditions of Santa Claus. As a Christian, I resent being told to celebrate the season when it isn’t here yet and being expected to prep for the next holiday when for me it’s still Christmas.
Thankfully, I’m now married to man who shares my love for pre-American Christian traditions and my desire to live a life untethered by consumerism. There’s no pressure to decorate the house or find the perfect Christmas gift. I’m free to be contemplative during Advent, and celebrate Christmas with my church family on Christmas Eve.
Still… I struggle as we move from a time of darkness to a time of light, as we move from preparing the way to celebrating the birth. I work to convince myself that the days are getting longer, and I spend time faking it until the sun and warmth returns with Spring. I immerse myself in readings and prayers that inspire me, and I focus on habits that I know will keep me from feeling worse.
I remember… “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:5 NLT)
How are you doing on these long dark days?