Kehrberg: Seeking comfort and joy

Dec 18, 2017 by

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During Advent, churches wait for Jesus’ birth while discussing concepts like comfort and hope, waiting and watching, peace and joy. Spiritually, I get it. But on a practical level it’s a bit of a joke. If Jesus brings peace and joy, by the time he actually gets born on Christmas morn it’s a little late.

Sarah Kehrberg


I’m waiting in anticipation for Christmas morning, but only so the programs and parties and special church services will stop. I yearn for Dec. 25 so life can just go back to normal.

I have a friend who, when she gets fed up with a person or vexing situation, says, “I’m done. I’m just done.”

Of course, it’s usually wishful thinking. We can rarely simply cut out and discard the undesirable things in our lives. Like shopping for Christmas gifts. Or feeling tired and behind all the live-long day. How I wish, about Dec. 2, that I could proclaim, “I’m done” and have it be truly so.

I sound like a Scrooge, but in truth I enjoy much of the holiday trappings. It isn’t the individual components that overwhelm me, it’s the need to do it all within the space of four or five weeks.

It happens every year, and every year I try a new coping strategy. This year I’m combining the secular and sacred. I’m going for Advent ideals, minus the Advent waiting. With Christian humility, I seek the peace and hope that only Christ brings. But, like my gifts under the tree, I want them now.

I’m seeking out the practical things of this season that bring even a modicum of comfort and joy. And I don’t mean spiritual peace. This isn’t about comfort that will come after my time in Christmas captivity has ended.

I’m looking for the physical high of hope that leaves me feeling positive and friendly. The peace of Christ that is normal blood pressure and a general calm approach to life choices. Joy that feels extremely similar to good old happiness.

Which is to say you’ll find me in the kitchen. For me, cooking is quintessential Advent.

Comfort is having food, the sustenance of life, right there for the taking.

Hope is putting individually unappetizing baking soda, flour, eggs and vanilla together, believing they’ll rise into a cake. Or pouring milk into a lumpy flour-butter mixture and expecting it will mysteriously thicken into smooth, creamy sauce.

Happiness is a table full of cooling cookies or a fruit pie bubbling under a golden crust.

Peace is seeing people enjoy food I made with my own hands. Partaking of my first fruits. Accepting my love and care.

There have been other, surprising Advent activities. Like cleaning the stovetop. I avoided doing it past the point of respectability, yet when the deed was done I couldn’t stop looking at the gleaming white surface. No more grease spatters and crusty food particles; the captive was free.

Perhaps it’s pathetic, but stepping back from the stove top I felt genuine hope. I was capable of making something better, of being better.

Don’t worry, I know feelings are fleeting. Baking means dirty dishes, sticky counters and weary feet. Christmas trees drop needles. The credit card comes due.

What goes up must come down, and no one has a fix for that. My coping strategy, however, is to tie on my apron, turn on the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and mix up a batch of cookies. Merry Christmas.

Sarah Kehrberg lives in Swannanoa, N.C., and attends Asheville Mennonite Church.

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