December 1, 2021
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” John 1:5
I am writing this on the first day of Advent. It’s another grey day that doesn’t convey the celebration that today we start our journey with the Jesse Tree devotional.
Bobby Gross in his book “Living the Christian Year”(1) suggests 2 different postures that enrich our experience of Advent. The first one is “permission to sing and permission to groan.” (pg. 44) What each of us experience during Advent is different depending on our circumstances.
For some this is a joyous time, as our anticipation and excitement for Christmas grows within us. We’re delighting in Christmas music and the special concerts and programs. We’re enchanted by the sparkle of Christmas lights dancing in the rain. There’s the wonderful smell of baking, kid’s home from school and getting together with family and friends. We feel surrounded and embraced by the love of others. We feel like singing with great joy.
However, that’s not true for many of us or perhaps only partially true. For us, this season is marked by loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Deep hurts from the past and the present seem larger and more all-consuming. The obligations of gifts and gatherings weigh us down. We find ourselves growing weary of it all.
All the hustle and bustle, and all the talk of family gatherings, the TV ads that tell us what Christmas should be only reminded us of what isn’t for us. We realize how alone we are; we experience the emptiness in a corner of our heart left by a loved one whether recent or a long time ago. Estrangement from and within families feel like a never ending death we do not know how to grieve. The dark memories of the past once again fill our minds even though we thought they were gone.
There are other losses too. Loss of job, changes in finances, in health, the losses caused by COVID-19 and now the new omicron variant. We have grown weary of the anxiety caused by the pandemic, the divisiveness over precautions and vaccines, weary of wearing masks and constantly washing hands. We would just like to go to sleep and wake up January 1st. We groan with in.
Yet Advent is a both/and a time to sing and a time to groan. And this is alright. But what do we do with the groans surfacing from deep within us? How do we find the hope of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us?
The Blue Christmas Service on December 12th at 6 pm is an opportunity to bring our grief, our pain and our struggles into the presence of Jesus. His presence is like a comforting light piercing the darkness. In Jesus’, who is the Light of the World, we find the comfort and hope that we need. Circumstances might not change but we know that we are not alone.
During this Advent season let yourself experience both the joy and the sorrow. Give yourself and others room to groan and also to sing, for it is in Jesus that we find the hope we are longing for.
_____________________________________________________________________________ (1) Gross, Bobby. Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books, 2009