The season of Advent is upon us! Praise be to God!
Growing up, my family did not celebrate Advent. While I’m sure my Methodist church did all the Advent ThingsTM, I never got the talk that explained what this season was about in our faith until I joined a campus ministry in college. I didn’t know that Advent was practiced outside of Catholicism or that I could light the candles in my home. I certainly didn’t know about the significance of each week. So, what is Advent?
“Advent is a monumental, distinctive season when we are invited to spread the joy of waiting. We are to reaffirm the truth that we are not just celebrating the birth of Jesus but anticipating his second coming. We hope in the knowledge that we are not just awaiting an infinitely loving God. Still, we are also being awaited by God.”
Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Hope in Disarray
The first week of Advent is about Hope. As Grace Ji-Sun Kim says, “Hope that we are not just awaiting God, but that we are also being awaited by God.” These days, hope can feel very far away and challenging to grasp. I know I often struggle to find hope as I read about the continued deadly wars in Gaza and Ukraine. I struggle to find hope, knowing that so many people cannot afford food in our “great” country. Many struggle to find hope in a holiday season that focuses so much on family when their families feel too complicated or unsafe to lean on. What do we do when this time of Advent seems to call for such joyous expressions, but we can’t move past all this turmoil?
I believe one of the most meaningful practices in our history as Christians is the practice of lament. Lament is not something that we talk a lot about anymore, especially in a world that pushes us toward Good Vibes Only mentalities. But lament runs deep in our traditions, and I offer this practice to you today as something we can all do when Hope seems too challenging to find in happiness.
I share this passage about lament from The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister of Worship and Theology in the United Church of Christ, as she describes what lament means and why it is a critical practice.
“Lament encourages us to speak with transparency and frankness. Lament holds nothing back from God and does not yield to polite discourse. Lament is raw, pain-filled, and laden with emotional response. Lament receives and distributes anger, grief, disgust, incredulity, and despair. But, lament does not conclude there. Lament progresses. Lament turns to remembering. Lament moves from complaint to praise to promise to declaration of hope. Lament does this because lament engages in dialogue with the Holy One rather than abandoning God even when it seems that the Holy One has retreated from them.”
As we journey through this season of Advent, I invite you to walk with me in practicing lament for all the things we must find Hope for.