Tom Fuerst - December 12, 2021

The Bright Sadness

O Christmas Tree

It can be hard for us to know how to navigate the complex experiences of the holidays. For some, it’s a time of great joy; for others, struggle and sadness. Advent offers us a unique avenue into these spaces by inviting us to confront pain and disillusionment with hope. How can we wait in the bright sadness for God’s arrival?

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This sermon was written and delivered by Tom Fuerst

Approaching Christmas was the time of year my wife had some of our biggest fights early in our marriage. The fights were mostly because the incongruity of our expectations or the contradictory feelings we had around the season. See, I grew up in poor, rural Missouri. My Christmases were universally disappointing. One year our pit bull – because in poor rural Missouri every white family has one – our pit bull tore down our Christmas tree and opened all our presents a week before Christmas. Another year, my mom couldn’t afford Christmas presents for us so, on Christmas Eve, my uncle shows up with boxes of presents. He told us they were from my mom, but we all knew he’d gone to the Salvation Army and picked out boxes of random stuff. It was a nice gesture, but nothing in the box said, “Tom, we see you.” It was clearly a box for “Boy, Age 12.” Another year, my dad showed up on Christmas morning with the most Missouri-gifts ever. He gave me and my three siblings two—-two!—-Missouri lottery scratch-offs a piece. When you’re a kid and you think you can win a million dollars in the lottery, it’s pretty cool. But once you scratch them off and you didn’t win anything, you’re left with nothing for Christmas. I came into my marriage with expectations around Christmas were quite low…and behind that, there was the feeling of sadness.

My wife, however, grew up in a family that made a huge deal out of Christmas. Her mother always decorated for Christmas early. Christmas music played in their house for two months straight. Family always gathered at her house for Christmas. They stayed up late enjoying being together, playing games, and reminiscing. My wife had high expectations for Christmas. Her feelings were sentimental and bright…too bright.

So you can imagine our first year together at Christmas with our contrary expectations about how Christmas would go.

She starts preparing for Christmas early. Decorations going up around our apartment. She’s thinking in detail about the perfect gift for everyone. By October my house is smelling like wassel and peppermint tea…little Christmas gnomes everywhere. And I’m sitting there sipping my Mt. Dew waiting for December 26th. My expectations were low and sad. Her expectations were high and bright. Her expectations around the Christmas nearly ruined our marriage the first year. My expectations nearly did the same. But it took both my sadness and her brightness to free us both from our prisons of Christmas expectations.

The incongruity of our feelings actually provided a needed perspective for both of us.

Join us Sunday as we learn how Advent helps us engage a world that needs God.

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