When the Fall Overshadows Festivity

My hometown of Thousand Oaks—a place once known as a serene and safe gem between L.A. and Santa Barbara—made headlines not long ago as the location of the United States’ most recent mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill. We barely began to mourn that tragedy when the Woolsey and Hill fires began, claiming many homes in our community.

How are we supposed to enter into the holiday season when disaster is still heavy on our hearts? Festive tunes like Deck the Halls and Holly Jolly Christmas are usually on repeat as soon as Thanksgiving ends. But the lyrics to those songs just don’t ring true this year. At least not yet. How can we take part in the moments leading up to Christmas when merriment eludes us?

The answer is Advent.

Advent is a time for God’s people to wait and hope for the arrival of the Savior. It’s a time of longing. Advent recognizes the yearning the world experienced before Jesus was born, and it also invites us to acknowledge our hunger for Jesus’ second coming. 

Christmas celebrates a longing fulfilled by Jesus’ birth. His death and resurrection secured salvation for His followers. He guarantees an end to loss and pain. But until our Savior returns again, we still live in a broken world that aches for everything to be made right. 

Tragedies illuminate the world’s fractures and the fact that nothing can save us from destruction except for Jesus. Often, those of us experiencing loss during the holidays can feel overlooked when we’re surrounded by festivity and cheer. 

If you’re currently morning a loss, I encourage you to rest in this season of Advent. Be comforted by the generations of Christians before you who have used the weeks leading up to Christmas to grieve the real effects of sin. You’re not alone. 

Although Advent can be a time of deep sadness, our sadness is not without hope. Just as a longing was fulfilled over two thousand years ago by the arrival of God in the form of a baby, we can know that our desires will be fulfilled and suffering will end when Jesus returns once more. 

Adding to the heaviness of the Advent season for us at STR this year is the anniversary of our dear Melinda’s fall, which caused her severe brain damage. By the grace of God, she’s been showing some exciting signs of improvement. Melinda encouraged others to understand and recognize the meaning of Advent. She went into more detail about Advent here.

If you enjoy Christmas music but don’t feel your usual playlist resonates this year, here is a list of Advent-specific songs you may find comforting:

Brooke Steinbacher holds a B.A. in music and worship arts from Vanguard University and an M.A. in visual culture from the University of Nottingham. She is currently working as the media manager at Stand to Reason.

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Brooke Steinbacher

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