The feelings and sentiments that accompany this time of year are an entanglement of joy and emptiness. I love the seasonal movies, music, and décor, as it brings up wondrous nostalgia from when I was a child. The times spent with family next to a fire with hot chocolate are palpable memories for me. These thoughts exist alongside my current life as a grad student in theology studies. Here, I experience the pressure of finals and deadlines for papers. There’s a hole in my experience of Advent: underneath the gifts and lights, I want to feel the transcendent. An enormous amount of propaganda takes advantage of this hole in all of us and tells us that seasonal cheer can be bought.
If you are like me, the emotional turbulence may leave you feeling disoriented and confused as we’re all bombarded by what is the “ideal” holiday experience of joy. All of the pressure can lead to self-loathing and envy, eliciting a forced joy that actually suffocates true joy. We ought to keep in mind the final end of the season: preparing to welcome Jesus. The three pieces of music I’ve written capture for me the feelings of this time: the feeling of being excited and hopeful, the time of introspection and longing, and real vivacity found in Jesus.
The first track, “Advent Hope,” attempts to capture the enchantment of the season. When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite things to do was to go sledding. Nothing really compared to the sense of going down a hill. The rush of energy of being on a sled in the snow hills gave the thrill of being alive. When I was younger, I associated that kind of joy with Advent. As I got older, I came to know another aspect of the season. Despite the outward appearance of the glitz and the glamor, there emerged an interior longing inside me. The second track, “Snow Stroll,” attempts to capture these sentiments. Some years, this is the loneliest season of all as we feel the existential darkness. The sound of one’s own footsteps crunching snow underfoot may be the only accompaniment we experience. But, this longing can lead to something deeper. This time of Advent leading to Christmas is a time of suspension, of waiting and preparing for Emmanuel, “God is with us.” I try to capture the energy and the thrill of the season in the final track, “Emmanuel,” focusing on what matters, preparing for Jesus.
I’ve tried to emulate the swirl of feelings that come with this season in my music. As we journey toward the end of Advent, experiencing the light and the darkness, we ought to turn our minds toward whom we are journeying to see. We journey toward Jesus with this mix of joy and emptiness. The best gift to give him this season is our very selves, this jumble of light and dark. He wants all that we are and offers us fullness of life in return.