by Mark Cooke

My father was an alcoholic, like his father and his sister, but thankfully most of his life he was functional and never abusive. He struggled with showing emotion, so as I look back on my childhood, I don’t feel much of a connection with him and grieve that I didn’t have an example of fatherhood while I raised my children. I know he was proud of me because others that worked with him told me about his bragging about me, but he couldn’t bring himself to let me know how he felt.

Several years ago I was transferring 8mm movie reels onto VHS cassettes (younger folk – ask your parents!) and watched a Christmas movie filmed when I was around 5 which showed my father holding and swinging me with smiles on both our faces. The Christmas decorations and presents from Santa around our fireplace was the backdrop. This brings a flood of emotions every time I think of this movie. My father died at the age of 55 and as I get older and grieve not having a relationship with him, I think of this movie that brings a warmth to my heart, knowing that he loved me.

I see echoes of this sentiment in my spiritual life. I’ve been blessed to have had a close walk with my God since high school, but during many periods of my life, I’ve had desert experiences when I felt lost and directionless. Advent works like the old movie of my father holding me, by reminding me of the love God has for me even when my heart might be confused and lost. There is nothing better and more impactful to me than when a person in my life voices their love and support of me. I celebrate Advent because it shows God is preparing an eternal path for continued showing of God’s love for me through the birth and gift of God’s beloved Son.

My prayer is that each of us this Advent, no matter where we are on our journey, can be reminded of the love God has for us – not because we deserve it, but only because God formed us and loves us no matter what!

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