There’s a commercial that runs this time of year. I’ve noticed it for at least three years now. In it, a beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde haired woman in her mid to late 20s sits on a train, moving through the snow covered territory, which reminds me of the Hudson Valley in New York state. As the train pulls into the station, her eyes light up and her brilliant white teeth break beam through her perfectly polished lips as her face erupts in a grand smile. As the train comes to a stop, cherub like children run along side the train, the cause, no doubt, of her smile, waving to her and running, until, the scene culminates with them running into her arms as Christmas music plays in the background and we are reminded of the power that teeth whitening strips can have on our holiday.
The commercial used to make me cry. It evokes, in me, such longing, and such a reminder of those things unfulfilled in my life. The woman, as presented in this 30 second film, seems to have everything: the family, the idyllic back drop for the season, the teeth. I can remember when I first moved to Chicago from New York, from knowing a whole community of people to knowing almost no one, I would watch this commercial and wonder who I had failed so miserably—failed to create this life that was being projected as what I was supposed to want, what I was supposed to have. Of course, it wasn’t just that commercial. There were and are others as well—reminders of what I don’t have—the big house, the perfectly decorated living room, the 2.5 children, the family that never fights—all the things I see, all the ways I come up short.
And now? Now life is different…people I love are all around me. Chicago feels, if not like home, at least like a good resting place. And yet I see that commercial and while I don’t cry, I find myself still feeling like I’ve come up short, like I’ve not done what is supposed to be done.
The challenge of living in Advent–the challenge of living the Christian faith–is living with both a foot in both worlds–the world of media, of life, of this world and the world that is that of the Christian life–the world that is and yet is not yet, looking for the coming, looking for the things, the places where the veil grows thin and the world is transformed without the power of Crest white strips.