Despite the unusually warm temperatures outside, it's definitely mid-December. I know this because the advent wreath is on the dining room table, the Christmas tree is up and decorated, the box of Christmas books and videos/DVDs has made its appearance in the living room, and the cookie recipes are scattered in the kitchen. I also know it because yesterday was Christmas pageant rehearsal number two (one more to go before performance on 4th Advent), and on Saturday, Santa rode into our little town at the back of the Christmas parade. S' Christmas cactus is blooming wildly on the windowsill, brightly advent pink (joy!), and the poinsettia she rescued a couple of years back is also blooming again. I love her green thumb.
Then there's the fact that I spent a few minutes this morning hunting down the elusive notebook with my advent poem jottings. Yet another year that I am feeling almost certain that a poem won't get written, but I've managed it for twenty-three years running, even in really dry and difficult years, and somehow or other, it will happen in year twenty-four.
Dry and difficult aren't quite the words I would use for this particular advent season, but there have been lots of struggles this year. My stress levels have been an almost all-time high in the past week or so, and the stress is manifesting itself in physical ways -- I am struggling with back and hip pain of the kind I only get when my body has just maxed out stress-wise. S' anxiety levels have been enormous of late, which is affecting all of us, especially as she struggles with sleep. (Though blessedly, last night was better. Thank you, Abba!) I also know a lot my own stress is due to being deep down tired: I've had health issues while needing to keep an incredible work pace this year, and it's not over yet. Some of it is our financial stress -- we've had a rotten fourth quarter, and the personal Christmas miracle I am praying for right now is the ability to keep our electricity on through the holidays (not an exaggeration). Some of it is also weariness in the face of difficult news of suffering from around the world, which sometimes seems more (not less) acute when we look at it with advent eyes.
In and through all of this, it can sometimes be difficult to hear the gospel sing, but sing it does, and that too is another reason I know it's mid-December. Because Jesus has come and still comes and will come again, and that means light in dark places and tender care for all aches and hope where reason tells us there's no reason to hope. So deeply thankful that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas again.