This year I wasn’t in the mood for Christmas. The reality of evil, racism, division, and pain seemed especially stark and I was struggling to enter into hope. In an attempt to feel some solidarity (or maybe just sympathy) I asked our community group, “How are you entering Advent this year? “ A friend who has lived in and through a lot of pain piped up and I was thinking, “Oh good, she gets how I’m feeling. She’ll share the struggle.” Instead she said something that changed the whole season for me. She said, “I love Christmas. It’s like a break from our problems. Everything is joyful and decorated. It’s a reminder every year that there is hope.”
Her words called me out. Her joy was convicting. The truth was simple and clear. This wasn’t an escapism or denial. She was living with some heavy stuff. This was faith to believe the reality of Christ’s birth. Even more powerful than the evil I’ve seen, is the truth that the Kingdom of God with its peace, joy, and fullness broke into the pain, fear and oppression of the world when Jesus was born.
My friend's words hung in the air like a choice for me to make. Would I enter into the reality of hope, joy, and love in this season as much as I had entered into the pain, lament, and brokenness? Do I truly believe that the self-giving love, forgiveness, and justice that Christ taught us can overcome evil? Will I embrace the anticipation of Advent, the practice of waiting each year for the Salvation of the world, or will I choose despair?
I realized that as much as I want to honestly see and embrace the pain in our world, I have to also embrace the truth that Christ has come. Without experiencing his incarnational love, his illogical peace, his boundless joy, I have nothing to offer. And if I cannot live in a place of hope, I do not really understand the promise of the good news proclaimed in this season.
Often I feel that I will deny peoples’ pain if I don’t enter into it. This year, Advent is teaching me that I betray their pain if I don’t enter into hope. Courage, strength, and wisdom to walk with others, confront evil, and honestly look at my own pain comes from recognizing that Christ, the source of all hope, has arrived.