Saturday, December 17, 2022

Fleeing in the Dark

In a few days we will observe Blue Christmas, or the Longest Night of the Year. It is a time within Advent to reflect on suffering and pain and to express grief and heartbreak—while simultaneously focusing on Jesus’ promised hope.

In some ways, these last few years have felt like one long Blue Christmas. This has been a very, very long longest night. I suppose reading about Advent from a trauma-informed perspective this season hasn’t helped brighten the mood, but I am a firm believer that the muck and mire of Advent is much more real and relevant to our healing than any amount of holiday cheer and tinsel. I love twinkle lights. I love the way they softly light a room. But they only spread their glow in a darkened space.

We often talk about light piercing the darkness. And that is exactly what Jesus, Light of the World, did. But because he came to us as fully God and fully human, at Advent we celebrate “God with Us”—Immanuel. Jesus joined us in the darkness. And yes, He leads us towards the Light. But when he was still a baby and even a young man in Judea, not much had changed. He experienced heartbreak, the oppression of an empire, poverty and violence.

Kelly Nikondeha writes,

“These advent narratives reveal the Incarnation as more than God entering a human frame. They are also the revelation of God engaging with human trauma of a specific place and specific people. God experienced the excruciating reality of empires and economies from the position of the weak and powerless ones. God absorbed loss and pain in that body. The Incarnation positions Jesus among the most vulnerable people, the bereft and threatened of society. The first advent shows God wrestling with the struggles common to many the world over” (p. 102).
That first Advent, Jesus and his family had to flee for their lives. They became refugees in a foreign land. They left everything behind.

We know this was God’s will. Baby Jesus could not have been killed by Herod (the Great) before Herod Antipas got to witness his death sentence 30-odd years later. But I have always wondered at this part of the Advent story—or rather it’s brief reference. I just finished talking about Emmanuel, God with us, but when Joseph received the dream-message that Herod was on the look-out for Jewish baby boys, they quickly left. Jesus left. If ever a time was needed for saving, this was it. Mass murder happened that week. And everyone wondered, “where is God in our suffering?”

On this side of the Biblical account, we know that God was not absent. But we also know that it never seems that way in the midst of disaster and trauma. Maybe this is an example we can share when people (or ourselves) ask, “why does God allow suffering?” or “where was God when that happened?”

Jesus had arrived as a baby. It was glorious, good news of great joy! But the story wasn’t over.

The story isn’t over.

Our God is a good who prepares the way.

The long night will not last forever. But without it, we cannot see the Light.

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