Always Winter and Never Christmas An Advent Reflection by Travis Mamone

by Christine Sine
Always winter but never Christmas

Always winter but never Christmas

Today’s post in the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Waitis written by Travis Mamone. Travis is an author, a blogger, and an all around wayfaring stranger. He is the author of the e-books “In Praise of the Doubting Thomas,” and “O Come Emmanuel.” He has written for such publications as Provoketive Magazine, Relevant Magazine, The Upper Room, and Burnside Writers Collective. His work appears in the books “Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression” (Civitas Press, 2011), and “Finding Church” (Civitas Press, 2012). He has also contributed to the Something Beautiful podcast. He lives in Easton, MD and blogs at www.travismamone.net

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Around this time every year, I feel strangely melancholy. Like Charlie Brown, I know I should be happy; Christmas is coming, remember? While I am glad I can finally listen to A Very Special Christmas Vol. 1 over and over again, I still have this underlying feeling of gloom.

Maybe it’s the weather. After all, it is that time again to put away the flip-flops and t-shirts, and break out the heavy coats and sweaters. Plus, the days are getting shorter, so when I get off work it looks like the middle of night outside.

But I think it’s something much deeper than that.

Call me a party pooper, but I can’t help but think about all the people that won’t have themselves a merry little Christmas. I think of the homeless man trying to keep warm, the little girl wondering why her poverty-stricken parents say they’re not going to have a Christmas this year, and the lonely man who is thinking about ending his own life. I also think about my own life and all of the mistakes I’ve made during the past year, and all of the unresolved issues that are waiting for me in the new year. Maybe I am the Charlie Browniest of all the Charlie Browns in the world after all.

It’s no wonder that one of my favorite Christmas songs is “Sister Winter” by Sufjan Stevens, one of the saddest Christmas songs ever. Most Christmas songs are about simply having a wonderful Christmastime. However, if you struggle with mental illness like I do, you know that the dark and cold winter can make you sad. Instead of thinking about all the good times you’re going to have with your loved ones, you can’t help but cry from all the pain you’ve experienced in the past year. December doesn’t just mean Christmas and New Year’s Eve; it also means having one last good cry before the year ends. And I think this song sums it up perfectly:

Oh my friends I’ve
Begun to worry right
Where I should be grateful
I should be satisfied

Oh my heart I
Would clap and dance in place
With my friends I have so
Much pleasure to embrace

But my heart is
Returned to sister winter
But my heart is
As cold as ice[1]

Or maybe it’s all just part of the Advent season.

As we light the Advent wreath and sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” we think about how this world, this life, isn’t how God originally intended it to be. We think about the Second Advent, when all will be made new again, by meditating on the First. We pray for God to give us grace “that we may cast away works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light”[2] as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.

Advent reminds me of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where it was “always winter and never Christmas”[3] in Narnia before Aslan came. I know it sounds like the title of a bad emo song, but once you think about it, this world does seem like it’s in a state of always winter and never Christmas. We see so much darkness every time we watch the news:  war, poverty, crime, corruption, hatred, etc. It seems like we’ll never see the light; we only catch a few glimpses of the occasional flicker.

So maybe all of this melancholy is just my spirit groaning with creation to see the world restored (Romans 8:22-23). Maybe on a deeper level, I know that this isn’t the best we can do. Maybe the reason why I haven’t given up yet is because I know, deep within my heart, that another world is possible.

And one day we will see another world. One day Christmas will come, and then the snow will melt away. One day will see, as Brian McLaren writes it, “the beginning of a new spiritual-historical age or era.”[4]

But first, we must wait. It only when we experience Advent—the season of waiting and preparation—that we can experience Christmas.


[1] Sufjan Stevens, Sister Winter, 2006 by Asthmatic Kitty Records, mp3.

[2] The Book of Common Prayer (Church Publishing Incorporated, 1979), 159.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1950), 19.

[4] Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010), 197.

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