How to Begin and End Well

It happens every year. I feel the crispness in the air. My schedule gets packed full of need to do’s and have to do’s and the joy gets sucked out of life. My bones ache and I weary, but the holidays lie ahead which means I straighten myself and brace for more busy.

By the time I light the Advent candles I’m in desperate need. I’m the kind of tired that finds you pouring cup after cup of coffee in search of a spark of life to infuse your days with energy. The drudgery of daily life feels heavy and I’m grasping for joy in any crack I can find it.

Advent. It’s the arrival. The days leading up to Christmas are a slow anticipatory walk in the dark. I feel like I’ve been walking in the dark for months now waiting on the light to break in.

Advent also marks the beginning of the yearly Christian calendar. It’s a reset. It’s one time all year where we can hope afresh. I believe God knows our tendency to weary in the deep places of our fallenness. This seems obvious when we read the Christmas narrative, but we’re amnesia prone children.

We were helpless stumbling around in the pitch black and infused into our night was a hope so pure and clear that only the heavens could properly declare its arrival.

Around our home we have a few traditions. We decorate our Christmas tree and our sides split from watching Elf and bellies full from gobbling up our favorite Chinese food. The freezer gets loaded with White Chocolate Cranberry cookie dough for gooey treats on demand all season long. Daily Advent readings close out our days and we do our best to slow while the madness swirls like so many snowflakes around us. Before we know it Christmas has come and gone and we’re staring down the barrel of a new calendar year.

The greatest tradition we can have is to start and end our year with Jesus. There is going to be a metric ton of messiness in the in between. That is certain.

We end our year with the emptiness of our own need and we begin our year with the hope of Jesus born anew. The seasons of the year circle back on themselves and often we can track our moods and struggles through their path. In the Northern Hemisphere we enter the darkest days of our year and we’d be fools to do it without finding the North Star of Jesus steady to guide us, but we do, don’t we?

The temptation is to stuff ourselves full of the fluff of the season. One click ordering on Amazon (which is amazing), trying to make all the comforts of our far off home in a foreign land, crafting some idealized vision of Christmas that insulates us from the way we really feel which is often less than ideal on any given day.

The one tradition we need to break is our tendency to forget why our traditions matter. Every Christmas hymn lisped out is the sound of hope keeping us alive. Each gift wrapped is to honor the unmatched gift of Jesus come to be with , to redeem all of the brokenness. If we do one thing this holiday season let it be to fill our cups with Jesus, fill our hearts with truth for the year long journey ahead.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, seemed to have it right when she proclaimed the awe she felt when she was told of the joy she was carrying. Who was she to be chosen? Sisters, who are we to be chosen, plucked right out of obscurity by a baby King coming to shake the ground with hope? But we are and my prayer is we are rattled by the remembrance.

I’m desperate for it and I think you are too. I’m desperate for the reminder that frozen earth and a cold heart is no match for grace lying all pink skinned and new in a rugged feeding trough. Where the story of our year ends His story begins.

Where are you empty and in need of the filling of Jesus?



  1. Julie December 2, 2015

    I like this idea, of beginning and ending the year with our Alpha and Omega!

  2. Anna December 2, 2015

    I always look forward to Advent.  This year, I didn’t know how much I needed it until the season started.  My soul was lifted, and joy sparked.   I think there are some years that we need that reminder of hope and joy more than others, and I guess this is one of those years.

  3. Susan December 3, 2015

    “Sisters, who are we to be chosen, plucked right out of obscurity by a baby King coming to shake the ground with hope? But we are and my prayer is we are rattled by the remembrance.”  So beautiful and true.  Thanks for sharing this piece with us, Jessica.

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