My favorite Christmas movie of all time isn't very jolly, at least not at first. Jimmy Stewart, tears in his eyes, offers up a desperate prayer: “I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope.” I later learned Stewart’s tears were real, not acting. A veteran of World War II, the darkness of war was still very fresh in Stewart's heart as he took on the persona of George Bailey in the 1946 film "It's a Wonderful Life."
My own experience of Advent and Christmas has been complicated over the past 10 years. In 2013 a serious bout of anxiety cast a dark shadow over the entire season. It's what I hope will be the lowest period of my life. Simply going to work, and going to mass each Sunday was exhausting. I rarely talked more than I needed to. Constant reminders that this was meant to be a season of expectation and joy only made that darkness more isolating.
Perhaps you are experiencing some darkness in your own life. It may be an illness you or a loved one are experiencing. A job loss. Rising debt. Anxiety over the state of the world. Maybe you are getting by, keeping up appearances as I tried to do, keeping my struggles to myself.
One good that God brought out of my advent of darkness was helping me learn that I was not supposed to keep my struggles to myself. Jesus entered into the darkness of our world, true God and true man, to be present to us in the darkness of life. This Advent and Christmas, my wish for each of you is that you would allow Jesus into any darkness in your own life and that you would prayerfully consider asking for help if you need it. As a wise friend once said, we are not called to white knuckle our way through life, to just barely get by.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).
~ Fr. David