Advent: Hope

The whole world groans this year in pain, difficulty and struggle. An invisible force has arrested governments and individuals, taken lives, incapacitated many and it’s exit seems to be far off. Time has more or less stopped as we wait to resume the joy of daily living in community and connection while we are in battle with this invisible enemy.

I find myself caught between a strange mix of a dreamer and a realist about the pandemic. The dreamer in me finds it easy to hope that this will all be over soon, but the realist quickly takes over, extinguishing any of those hopes and dreams. Instead, I force myself to find the silver lining in the pandemic because perhaps if the longing that I have won’t come true, it would be a devastating experience for both parts of me. Hoping against hope takes so much energy and potential sadness. 

Sarai was about 75 years old when God told her she would have a child. It is clear that she and Abram both struggled to believe that God would bring such a gift out of her barrenness. Ishmael was a living reminder of their doubt. But when 25 years pass and Sarai is told once again that she will bear a child, she does what we might do – she laughs. God promises to bring life out of barrenness and the proposition is so unbelievable, so out-of-touch with reality, and maybe even so frustrating that all Sarai can do is laugh. She says, probably with a voice of exasperation, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

This year often feels barren and full of disappointment. We hoped for graduation parties and weddings or even to be able to attend the funerals of the ones we love. We hoped for an Easter or Thanksgiving full of friends and family from far away places. We hoped for internships in a different country and landing an easy job after college. We dreamed of our first year of college full of new friends and big gatherings or our baby coming home from the hospital to a big family welcoming him or her with open arms. We dreamed of prom, ring dance or walking across a stage after years of hard work only to be met with an excess of screens and rules and half-faces.

This Christmas season, we all find ourselves in a unique situation that is unfavorable and awakens us to dissatisfaction with this life in a way that we haven’t encountered in many years. We join Sarai in her exasperation. But at the same time, as Chrsitians, we also know that disappointment can lead us to real, lasting hope. It is in Sarai’s barrenness that God shows us that He is hope. It is in your hurts, frustrations, and deep disappointments that God will meet you. Christ came to earth, not just to put on a great display, but so that he can empathize and walk with us. (Heb. 4:15) 

It is in your hurts, frustrations, and deep disappointments that God will meet you.

We often run away from our negative feelings, not allowing ourselves to the pain of the world around us. Instead, we continue full force ahead with blind optimism, forcing ourselves to be happy with the current circumstances or finding a glimmer of hope in the latest movement toward stability or normal. Instead, what if we collectively lean into our lament about the current state of affairs in order that we might find a transcendent blessing this Christmas season in relationship with God. Though Jesus has not promised to bring back our normal, (in fact, he says we will have trouble). He does promise a deeply satisfying relationship with the Father and citizenship to the Kingdom of God that serves as a foundation to our lives and provides peace beyond understanding. He promises to be with us, especially in the dark places. Paradoxically, it is our lament that leads us to the one thing, the one Person, in this life that does bring satisfaction. This Christmas season, let our lament lead us into an interactive relationship with the Creator of all things who has overcome the world.

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