by Chris Armfield
It’s officially winter and the Christmas-holiday-season is in full effect. I can nearly feel the cut of
the cold breeze outside as I sit inside, fingers cloaked around a hot and freshly brewed chai tea.
Looking through an expansive window from a local coffee shop in Greenville, SC, I examine
withered trees bearing the battle scars of surrendered leaves due to wrestling with an early Fall.
The common busyness of people walking and people watching on sidewalks, benches,
waterways and patches of manicured grass has lulled to a few brave souls executing their
mandatory A to B commute. The city looks lonely.
It’s no secret that the presence of the holidays ushers in wanted and at times unwanted
anticipation and change. For many, holiday anticipation can carry “exaggerated” levels of
loneliness and depression. According to Adam K. Anderson, Ph.D., an associate professor of
psychology at the University of Toronto, “the bombardment of media during the holidays
showing images of smiling families and friends often causes people to start questioning the
quality of their own relationships.” Studies reveal many people are experiencing what is called
SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as seasonal depression. This makes sense to
me on several levels. Sadly, I know many people who experienced the bulk of their abuse while
family spent the holidays together. The temperature changes, the songs and the gathering with
uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins serves a consistent reminder of the worst days of
If your mind and heart were visible during this season, what would an onlooker, like me,
For some, maybe even you, a richly Christian word like Advent may conjure up fear or
disappointment. Historical Christianity teaches that Advent is a season set apart for anticipating
the coming of Jesus. Yet for many, Advent means “I’ll be depressed ‘advent-ually.’” If this is you,
you’re not alone in this struggle of the mind. You are also not alone, right where you are,
Sincere Christians are tempted to turn their focus away from Jesus to earnestly commit to the
American dream, self protection, or whatever the online buzz of the day may be. The pressure
to be more righteous or at least better than I was a year ago is also ever present. Preachers
seem to be covering their listeners with a solid and heavy dose of the gospel of grace on a
weekly basis; however, self-justification projects still loom. The pull of commercial ideals and the
pressure of spiritual maintenance or growth has cruelly shifted the season meant for celebratory
anticipation into advent-ual anxiety and depression.
This is exactly what Satan serves up for the holidays. Do you realize he, Satan, is behind all
sinning – John 8:44? Satan is behind the distractions that are encouraging misery instead of a
spirit of merry. The scriptures provide a different narrative to believe, focus on and follow.
In 1922, Helen H. Lemmel wrote a hymn based on Hebrews 12:2, Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Jesus is what Advent anticipates and celebrates. Television, shopping malls and online ads
mention Christmas as the bait in order to switch your focus to what “you need” and “others
want.” However, in “Advent’s coming,” believers are reminded to set apart mental, relational and
certainly spiritual time and space to fix their eyes on Jesus… and the things of earth grow
strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Jesus alone can and does offer what all
humanity wants and needs – John 10:10. Satan is known as the “prince of the power of the air”
– Ephesians 2:2 – contrasting the “Prince of Peace” – Isaiah 9:6 – whose Kingdom is of peace.
There are only two kingdoms, dark or light. Which kingdom are you fixing your eyes on – 1 John
Advent is about remembering Jesus’ finished work that secured your salvation. Advent is also
about anticipating Jesus’s glorious return where he will eliminate all distractions and
devastations. Even death will die. His coming will cancel anxiety and fear. If Advent has become
advent-ual depression or the loneliest time of the year for you, don’t lose hope. What the enemy
of God, Satan, has been doing in secret is now in the light – Ephesians 5:11! As Christians we
have read how the story ends. We are described as pilgrims, aliens, strangers and sojourners in
this life. James wrote that our stay in this life is like a mist. This life is so short that unless you
are watching intently for those vapor particles, you’ll miss them – James 4:14.
Advent-ually your depression will die in the light of His glory and grace.
Advent-ually your fears will flee in the light of His glory and grace.
Advent-ually your losses will lose their grip in the light of His glory and grace.
Advent-ually your abusers will no longer hold the place in your life in the light of His glory and
My friend, Advent-ually Jesus Christ will return and “make all things new”– Revelation 21:5. Until
that day, Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will
grow strangely dim.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18, For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of
glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are
unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Chris married Jerushah in 1998 and have three children, Anabelle, Liam, and Alexandria. He is the Lead Pastor of CITYLIGHTS in Greenville, South Carolina, where he equips people to be and make disciples of Jesus. As a sexual abuse survivor himself, Chris has an uniquely tender heart for helping hurting people find healing.