I don’t know about you, but I always feel a certain kind of magic in the air the moment Christmas Eve rolls around. It may be because it’s the last morning that I have to wake up at a very early hour for Dawn Mass1, or because it’s a non-working holiday and I can finally (sort of) rest, or because I can finally open the presents waiting for me under the tree2. Or maybe, maybe it’s because Advent is all about waiting, and Christmas Eve somehow feels like it’s the end of all the waiting for this season. Christmas is tomorrow, friends!
But can you imagine this: what if it’s just Christmas Eve…forever?
I’d talk about Groundhog Day here, but since I haven’t watched that movie (Don’t hate me!), I’ll go for something a little more familiar to me. There’s this Sweet Valley Twins book with the same idea, where Jessica was stuck in Christmas Eve for several days because she was so self-absorbed and ruined everyone’s Christmas. The only way she can get out is if she makes it right on that day, and eventually, she did break that time loop, with a bigger heart for Christmas and everyone else around her.
How frustrating it must be, to keep on waking up on the same day, never reaching that day you have been waiting for.
Even more frustrating, is how sometimes we thought we did things right, but end up still stuck in some kind of Eve, never arriving to where we wanted to be.
Sometimes, it feels like life is like that. We wait for something for a long time, and then when you thought it’s already here, it turns out it’s not. And you end up having to wait some more. And more. Sometimes we want to give up on waiting, so we do things: we try to make it come earlier by celebrating earlier, we distract ourselves with other things that require less waiting. Sometimes, we pretend it doesn’t matter. Sometimes we get tired of the waiting that we just give up.
Sometimes, it feels like we’re stuck at the Eve and we would never get to the Day.
But the thing about Christmas, and Christmas Eve, is that we are assured of the promise that Christmas will arrive. That the Messiah will come. No, wait, scratch that — that the Messiah has come, and He is born, and that God is already with us. All the waiting, the anticipating, and the frustrations come to a halt when Christmas morning comes, because Jesus is born. The prophecy has come true. God’s promise is here.
Emmanuel. God is with us.
I think one of God’s reminders for us today is to trust in His faithfulness. It may seem like we are and we have been waiting forever, like we’re stuck in some sort of Eve all our lives. But remember Christmas. Remember that day when God came down to the world for us, and became one of us. We have been waiting for a long time, but we have a God who is true to His word, and with Him, our waiting is never wasted.
O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
At least, this year, I promised not to open any present until Christmas. It was kind of sad that I didn’t have any more presents to open last year when Christmas came, so now I’m working on my EQ. :P [↩]
One of my closest friends is about to get married, and she called us, her entourage, at their house one weekend so we can practice the short performance they planned for the reception. I could have opted out, but I didn’t have anything to do, and besides, she gets married only once (and she’s the first to get married in our group). So I went.
By the time evening rolled around, I had laughed so much at their friends, people I met (and danced with) just a few hours ago. I was perfectly content listening to them talk, even if I had no idea what they were talking about and who these people were. It was such a fascinating conversation to listen to, I said several times, and to that they all laughed and made jokes and tried to ask stuff about me so I can be a part of the conversation.
I barely knew these people, but they exuded so much warmth that it almost felt like I wasn’t different from them. Like I know them just as well as my friend did. They made me laugh, they tried to set me up with someone (that my friend totally disagreed with), and they started talking about having a karaoke session with me. I barely knew them, but that evening, it felt like I did.
It feels like some sort of grace, to be around people like these whose souls just glow so bright that they managed to light mine up. We may not see each other again after the wedding. Or maybe I’d end up being friends with them. I don’t know. And I don’t really mind not knowing. It was enough for me then, and enough for me now that I saw them and knew them and heard them. I got home that night, pondering all this, and carefully cupping the light they left with me, like how you’d protect a candle’s light from the wind. It’s like the light was a little piece of me that I was looking for, and it showed me the things I’ve been missing for a while. It’s not completely bright yet, but it was light. Right now, it’s enough.
* * *
I’ve been thinking about people recently. Or, to be more accurate, I’ve been thinking about humans, and humanity and the things that make us what we are. I suppose it’s because the year is ending, so I get all introspective and existential at some point.
I’ve also been thinking about the season of Advent, and how this year feels so different from last. Not that I was expecting it to be the same, except maybe last year was a little bit busier, and a little bit crazier, except this Advent is just a little less crazy but still that, in a different way.
But I’ve been thinking about humans, and Advent, and how this entire season is described as waiting. Mostly, I found myself thinking of how Advent preludes Christmas, which is when God came down to the world and became one of us. He became human, to be with us. Emmanuel. God is with us. I’ve glossed over this fact over and over in the past year, but now it seems like an important thing that I’m trying to get a grasp of.
A few weeks ago, I wasn’t feeling my best. I called it a storm brewing inside me because it felt like it, and this storm kind of wrecked havoc in my heart later on, in ways I didn’t think it would do, in ways I didn’t think it would happen. And as this storm brewed and hit and left, I kept on going back to what my friend said when I talked to her because I was just so, so tired:
I was running an errand when I read that, and I remember having to rush to the restroom when I read that because the tears just started to come. It was like the words released the waterworks and all I wanted to do then was cry and thank her for throwing me this piece of truth. That it’s okay for me to feel the way I feel, to be so tired and sad and angry and to cry, because I’m human.
I’m weak. I’m flawed. I get angry, I get sad. I cry, and I get tired. I get happy with the smallest things, and I get the happiest when I make other people happy. I lash out and fight, and I notice the smallest things even when I shouldn’t, and I think a thousand miles an hour, too much for my own good. I try to stop that, and sometimes I do it, but other times I don’t. I am all of this and more, but most of all, I am human.
I know this doesn’t excuse the times I act out of selfishness when I should know better. I don’t like using the excuse, “I’m only human” when I make mistakes because I believe in taking responsibility and all that shiz, but sometimes I think I forget to cut myself some slack. I don’t mind telling others — especially the ones closest to me — that it’s okay if they stumble because they are human, and it happens but I often forget to tell that to myself. That it is also just as okay if I stumble sometimes because I am human, too.
It’s funny how sometimes our humanity is the hardest thing to accept about ourselves. I guess it’s true that often the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
And all this time, while I sat and pondered on this fact that I have known all the time, I think of Advent again, and Christmas. How God sent Jesus to become human so He could be with us. How Jesus was born in a stable, laid on a manger, born and raised by human parents. I think a little more and imagine how Jesus must have grown up — how Mary must have held him as a baby and cleaned after him and fed him. How he must have tried to play with Joseph when he could run, and how he must have tripped and scraped his knee and maybe even cried as Mary treated the wound with some medicine that stung. I think of how Jesus helped with the chores at home, talked to other people and read and played and walked like everyone else he knew around him.
I remember wondering, after I read Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, if Jesus knew who he was and what he was supposed to do when he was younger. And if he knew, what would he have done? I’d like to believe that maybe Jesus didn’t really know about it until later. Yes, Jesus is sinless and he sought God’s will…but it didn’t mean he knew what to do exactly, and what would happen to him. Why would he even have that agony in the Gethsemane if he knew what he was going to go through, right? Perhaps at some point in his life, Jesus was just as lost, confused, sad, tired, angry and terrified as we were in our lives. That Jesus also got cheered up by the small things and did big things to show his love for the people he cared for.
If Jesus, who was just as divine as he is human, can fully embrace all of this craziness, then why can’t I do that, too?
* * *
So I think of my humanity, and these new people who filled me with light recently. I think of Advent and waiting and Christmas and Jesus. I think of how messy life is, how flawed and imperfect everything is. I think of all the big and small victories, the times I’ve tried my best to be brave, and all the mistakes I’ve made in the past year. I feel bad about them, and I am really, truly sorry for not being a better person when I know that I can be one.
Then I gather them all up, and offer them to Jesus, like how the wise men came and offered what they had to the newborn baby on that first Christmas. I know what I have is not much, and it’s probably a really terrible offering. But I’d like to believe that when Jesus sees it, He smiles and tells me: “It’s okay. You’re human. I understand. I’ve been there, too.”
One of my closest friends visited my best friend and I one day at work to catch up and meet with another friend who went home for a vacation. It’s been a while since I talked to her, so we updated each other with the state of our lives. I gave her the short version of what was up with me, and before I was finished, I can already tell her reaction, and I sort of knew what she was going to say.
As expected, she was pissed off — and she said it in her really nice way, because she’s really the nicest among our group of friends. And also, as expected, she started ranting about it (in a very nice way, too), and then she said what I knew she would say:
“We don’t want you to get hurt.”
With that, my best friend, who was listening to the conversation while eating dinner, snorted. “I’m not a part of that ‘we’. She needs to go through this.”
* * *
You know how sometimes we hesitate to do things, or say things, because we fear hurting the other person, or we fear making things awkward? Sometimes, we hesitate because we’re not sure how the other person would react, or what they’re thinking. Then with all our hesitation, we decide not to do anything anymore because it might be better to do it later on, if there’s a chance. Sometimes, we don’t even hesitate — we don’t do things anymore, because we think the other person will just take offense and whatever you do will just make things worse.
And I totally agree with that: we need to be careful with one another and treat one another with love and think about what we say, because we do have the capacity to hurt the people we love the most. I agree with that, and I believe in discerning when to say what you need to say, and the right timing to open things up and all that.
But I also believe that sometimes, we need to give the people we love enough credit that they can take what we dish without totally ruining everything.
It’s just like what my two friends said: yes, they don’t want to see me hurting…but how will I ever learn if I don’t go through some things on my own?
I appreciate the thought, really, of how people don’t want to see me hurting. I really, really do. No one wants to see the people they love hurting, or sad, or even just upset. If anything, I would want to spare the people I love of how life can hurt them. And of course I don’t want to get hurt, too.
But there are times when the only way to get to the end is through some things, and we are never guaranteed a smooth ride through. No one said it was easy. And no one ever got through life without getting hurt.
No one ever got through life without hurting the people they love. This doesn’t give you an excuse to just hurt the people around you intentionally. This isn’t about being mean or manipulative or tactless or just plain harsh just so you can prove that you’re right and they’re wrong. It’s about showing them you love and trust them enough to know that they can take whatever you dish. It means not walking on eggshells around the person every time so you won’t hurt them, ever. That’s just impossible. And sometimes, being too careful with them just hurts more. Yes, there is a time to be careful with what you say or do, to tread carefully and speak gently. But sometimes, we mask this carefulness as an escape, as a way to not be responsible for breaking the other person’s heart so you won’t get blamed for the fallout.
That’s a cop out, and perhaps a little bit selfish. We have to give the people we love a little more credit. We have to stop thinking that people are fragile all the time. I’d like to believe that they’re stronger than we think they are, and if we act out of true, selfless love and sincerity, it won’t be that bad. I mean, I’d like to hope it won’t be. Don’t you trust their love enough that they can take whatever you have to say? Don’t you trust yourself enough to say things with enough grace so you won’t leave scars? Don’t you trust that you can forgive each other after everything? That you can move forward from this, and start anew?
The more important thing, I think, is to make the most loving choices when these moments come. To choose to love, and forgive, and to give grace, despite everything. To be present, when the fallout comes and to stay through it. There’s a right time to give comfort and be kind, to offer your shoulder to cry on, or even back off when you think what you’ll say will just hurt. There’s a time to cry, there’s a time to grumble and be mad about things for a while, if it helps. But there’s also time to open up, to face each other, to be vulnerable and to trust that the love and care you have for each other is strong enough to weather these storms.
We need to break these walls we build around ourselves and around the people we love in the pretense of protection. Let us find the courage to see and be seen, and be brave enough to love each other with a fierce love that doesn’t make (or take) excuses. Let us love each other with the kind of love that speaks of the truth even when it hurts, gives unlimited grace and forgives. Love is tough enough to handle tough love. Love endures all things, after all.