Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Blue Christmas: Wearily We Look to the Light

During a Passover Seder meal, it is traditional to spill a bit of wine from your glass at the mention of each of the ten plagues that God visited upon the Egyptians. The leader often says something like this: “We cannot allow ourselves to drink a full measure. Our own loves are diminished bye the recollection of this catastrophe. We express our sorrow that the Egyptians had to suffer punishment.”

So too with Blue Christmas.

Christmas and the season of Advent leading up to it are all about hope, peace, joy, and love. Those are the traditional names of the candles we light around the Advent wreath. But there is great suffering in this world. And it must be both acknowledged and grieved.
And so, on December 21 we set aside the longest night of the year to do just that.

But we don’t sit in darkness in self-deprecation. We recognize that the darkness of night makes the light of dawn so much more anticipated and awesome.

The other day as I was scrolling through Instagram, I happened upon a suggested post from ShannanWrites. She said, “Without the weariness, there is no thrill of hope.”

She, of course, is referring to the first verse of O Holy Night:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
I think we can safely safe we live in a weary world. And it appears wearier still from the effects of political unrest, racial tensions, economic hardship, and an on-going pandemic.

But in the “good times,” we have no need for hope. It’s only in desperate circumstances that we cling to hope that things might change for the better. This dichotomy is so striking. God is forever in the business of Light, but He permits the darkness so that we can better see the Brightness that has always been shining. We can call Him by name: Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12)--God with Us, Immanuel.

Tish Harrison Warren speaks often of this in her book, Prayer in the Night. I did not imagine this would be an Advent book, but so many themes have aligned this year. Allow me to share a few passages (note that all page numbers are from the eBook version):
“Mysteriously, God does not take away our vulnerability. He enters into it. Jesus left a place where there is no night to enter into our darkness. . .  To look at Jesus is to know that our creator has felt pain, has known trouble, and is well acquainted with sorrow. But our hope in suffering is not merely to gaze on the biography of an ancient man frozen in the pages of the Bible. The story of the gospel is not a mere mantra or a relic of history. It is alive and on-going. The work of Jesus continues, even now, in our everyday lives. So in hardship we do not look to Jesus solely as one who has been there before, once upon a time in a distant past. We find he is here with us, in the present tense. He participates in our suffering, even as, mysteriously, in our suffering we participate in the fullness of Christ’s life. (p. 92-93)

The hope God offers us is this: He will keep close to us, even in darkness, in doubt, in fear and vulnerability. He does not promise to keep bad things from happening. He does not promise that night will not come, or that it will not be terrifying, or that we will immediately be tugged to shore. He promises that we will not be left alone. He will keep watch with us in the night. (p. 103)

Redemption itself does not skip over the darkness, but demands that every last tear run. (p. 157)

As Christians, we take up watching as a practice, a task even. We stay on the lookout for grace. We proclaim that even in the deepest darkness there is one we can trust, who will not leave us. We believe that even if the worst comes to pass there is a solidity to beauty, to God himself, that will remain. Our posture of waiting does not deny the horrors of the night, but it bets on the morning to come. . . So, we pray for those who watch. (p. 165)

May we hold onto this truth. And let us pray this night for those who watch, and wait, and weep, weary and wore down by a myriad of weights. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.