We’re entering the season of advent. The days of advent are traditionally not days of celebration—they are days of longing for the light and voice of God to be heard through the darkness, for peace and justice to reign over oppression and violence. Before the time of Christ, the people of God were living in God’s silence, waiting and hoping for the Word of God to speak once more.
Normally, our family skips the longing of advent and leaps right into a month-long celebration of Christ’s arrival in the world. We plan advent activities centered on joy and delight, magic and laughter. As the darkest days grow darker and darker leading to the winter solstice, we’ve used the season of advent to beat back the night and bring light to our lives.
In our small corner of our community, longing and hope are closer and louder this year. My children long to have sleepovers with their friends. My husband longs to play music with friends. We long to have extended family in our home, gathering with all the joy and celebration of long-held traditions. We long for our family, our friends, and our community to be safe and stay healthy.
This season and first Sunday of advent is perfectly aligned with realtime, real-world longing. Even with the knowledge that Christ has come 2,000 years ago and brought with him the hope of salvation, never has the season of advent seemed more real. It’s dark out. We desperately want it to be bright again.
I’ve returned over and over this year to Scripture for comfort and hope. Humanity needs hope, and God is a god of hope. The Bible never shies away from the reality of suffering; God knows the pain of his people and answers with the hope of love, resilience, and restoration. Isaiah prophesied:
“This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
Paul writes in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
On this Sunday of hope, let’s make space for lament. Let’s make space for grief. This December will be different than any we can remember. We can’t deny the losses. God hears and meets us in our grief and disappointment. He also turns the darkness into light. He makes a way in the wilderness. He brings streams into the wasteland.
We can’t stop at lament.
As a cousin of mine put it, “It’s okay to be grateful and angry at the same time.” Hope does not disappoint us. As we long for brighter days, we already have the light of Love with us, even in the midst of our suffering. We already have the joy of our salvation, even in the midst of restrictions and limitations.
Grieve, mourn, and wail. And then give thanks. And then give praise. And then hope for reconciliation, hope for the peaceable kingdom to come, hope for the divided world to heal.
We’re going to continue our advent tradition of leap-frogging into Christmas because that’s the kind of joy we need infused with our lament right now. With all that has been taken from us this year, so much has been gained. In the last days of 2019, I wrote that God was whispering to me to be prepared to make space in 2020. Make space for what, I wondered, and here we are, at the conclusion of 2020, with so much space made. Space for deep, intimate joy with my immediate family. Space for long days at my parents’ farm this summer. Forced space for recovery and rest. Space for leisurely walks with my husband and our dog. Space for sunrises and sunsets, backyard fire pits, baking with my kids. Space for studying God’s Word. Space for deepened friendships over Zoom calls. Space to realign my priorities toward whatever God is calling me. I began 2020 anxious and depressed, hormonally off kilter. I’m ending 2020 filled with a peace that truly passes understanding and all the space in the world to go on living and loving this small corner of the world given to me. These are reasons to rejoice, even in the midst of longing and lament. There are reasons to rejoice.
May the longing and lament of this advent season be infused with hope and joy!