I could write many blog posts on what it is like to suffer from depression, grief, betrayal, physical ailments, and spiritual doubt during the seasons of Advent and Christmas. I have carried the heavy cross of despair during a time that is expected to be filled with joy and celebration. I could describe for you the particular forms of darkness I have known, but as I reflected on how to write this post, I realized that you do not need me to describe the dark to you. We have all known suffering, sorrow, and pain. My longing is to share hope and so I need to describe the Light…
The people of God waited in darkness for the coming of the Messiah. Mary waited in this darkness to give birth to the Messiah. She carried the Promised One, but in secret. No one, not even Mary, could imagine just how splendid the Light to come would be yet they waited with faith and patience in hope.
My Advent darkness lasted 44 years. I first experienced deep suffocating darkness on Christmas Eve when I was six years old. After our holiday dinner, my cousins, sisters, and I were watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in the tv room at my grandparents’ home. The relative entrusted with the responsibility of keeping us safely upstairs while the other adults put gifts under the tree, molested me. I vividly remember the darkness of the room that night. But I also still see the light of the street lamp shining through the window.
Twenty-seven years later, Christmas Eve 2001, I gave birth to my eighth child. Giving birth triggered memories of my childhood trauma and I began experiencing symptoms of PTSD as well as treatment resistant depression. The darkness became overwhelming. For 17 years, I have asked God where He was that night and why He let my precious son be born on the anniversary of such a horrible event. Why did my memories of every Christmas and my son’s birth have to be overshadowed by this darkness?
As I prayed, remembered, and reflected on these questions in preparation for writing this post I realized that God did not just allow my son to be born on Christmas Eve; He planned for that birthday just as He planned for the birth of His Son. God restored what evil had stolen from me and sanctified my Christmas memories. He came to me in the cries and smiles of a newborn baby. He gifted me with Light, Love, and Life and now I see Him even in memories of that Christmas Eve 44 years ago. He is angry and weeping and He is the soft light shining through the window.
And this is what I most want to say to you… Wait no longer! Emmanuel has already come to us! We are no longer waiting as Mary and the people of Israel waited. Jesus, the Light of the world, stands beside us in all our darkness. He waits for us to have eyes of faith that may see His Light despite the blackest of nights. In fact, His Light shines most brightly against the sky of the deepest darknesses.
This is my Christmas prayer for you… May you look into your own darkness, with eyes of faith, and see the Light that is Hope, Comfort, and Joy.
Laura Ercolino Copyright 2018