“I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols at the piano promised never came to pass.” - Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
It’s August. The height of summer, of carefree days and nights during the longest holidays of your life. So why on earth am I banging on about the most midwinter of festivities, Christmas? And why choose a quote from one of the most melancholy books my English degree ushered into my life?
Well, hear me out, because I think Sylvia Plath’s got a lot to say about that morning-after-the-night-before feeling so many of us get the day after Christmas. And it's not too much of a stretch to substitute ‘pine boughs and candles’ for an interrail pass and a hostelworld discount code, or ‘turkey and carols’ for a sharp suit and the networking galore that comes with a summer internship or vac scheme.
Sure, maybe you were excited about the summer when it started way back in June. But now, two months, twelve weddings, and weeks of drizzly days later, you’re starting to feel like summer might not be everything that Zara Larsson promised.
Maybe that's not you. Maybe you’re living the life. You’re on the dream road trip, or you’ve landed your ideal internship. You’re looking forward to heading back to uni but right now you’re right where you want to be.
Maybe you never had high hopes for the summer anyway. Maybe term has been hard, and the start of the holidays was even harder. Maybe you can’t go home, or you don’t want to. Maybe your summer job is a nightmare or you’re struggling to make ends meet until your loan comes in again in September. Maybe family circumstances are difficult and things have gone about as wrong as they could go.
We’ve all got different expectations and experiences of summer, and this blog post isn’t here to diminish that at all or to plaster an ‘easy Christian answer’ over the top. In fact, in my experience, it’s in my very real feelings and reactions to everyday life that what Jesus says about life rings truest.
So what does Jesus say about a summer spent ‘chasing highs’ with ALMA, driving at ninety with Ed or dancing to Despacito with Beiber? And what’s He got to offer when summer plans just don’t go to plan?
In our once-but-no-longer perfect world, Jesus never promises that there’s gold beneath those ‘gilt-ribboned presents’. He’s not the one who told us that summer, or Christmas, or anything else for that matter, would satisfy everything we desire.
So what’s the point? Is there really no value in enjoying the best of summer strawberries, in celebrating sporting achievement, in discovering adventure as we travel the world or in spending long summer nights with friends?
Of course there is. But these things, in their inherent goodness and the joy they bring us – are only horizons over which we catch a glimpse of the glory that Jesus will ultimately bring.
And knowing that Jesus’ kingdom is still a work in progress is important in the summer lows as well as the highs. We know the One who gave up his glory to be with us at our lowest, and whose resurrection and triumph over death gives us certainty that he can and will overcome the worst.
So here’s a challenge – however your summer’s going. What difference does it make to know that ‘in him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.’? What difference does it make that ‘God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross’?
And if knowing this person, who reconciles, renews and reigns over everything, makes such a difference to us, what difference could it make to our friends? How can we enjoy or struggle through whatever the summer brings, all the while pointing to the One who brings transformation to summer, Christmas and everything in between?
Want to chat more about how Jesus transforms lives? Grab a friend and head to www.uncover.org.uk for videos, discussion and more.
Joanna Robertson is an English and History grad who now works with UCCF, where she loves helping to equip students to think about and share their faith.