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  • Writer's pictureJKB

Lament your way through Christmas

I won't blame you for skipping this.

The subject line doesn't scream "This is going to be a blast!"

But, please, for your own sake, read on.

Culturally, we're in the holiday season.

Liturgically (a fancy word for "observing certain things at certain times", generally in Christian traditions), we're in the season called "Advent".

While I won't get into the meaningful elements of Advent liturgy (and won't claim to be an avid practitioner by any stretch); I want to briefly highlight how it could be a more helpful and memorable way to celebrate this season than decking halls.

Of course, 2020 has been...well, you know. Painful.

The default approach to pain, the one we're hardwired for, is to eradicate it. Get the medicine or the massage. Protest evils in our society. Find a new job as soon as possible. This is healthy. However, in efforts to fight pain, we can't help but anesthetize sometimes. We take ibuprofen. We "walk it off". We change the subject. In less healthy moments, we try to control, ignore what hurts or get blitzed.

Christmas can be a version of this. We are allowed to "pause" the exhausting work of dealing with our pain so we can sing carols, watch schmaltzy movies and feast. I don't think there's anything wrong with any of that. I love all of that.

In contrast, Advent has always been observed as a season of desperate anticipation. Taking our cues from the state of the world before Jesus was born, people who trust in God's love and power can still wonder when it will make all the wrong things right. It's a season of getting honest about how much we long for what hasn't happened yet. As in all biblical lament, it's the habit of laying it all out there in the presence of a God who knows and cares, even if He hasn't wrapped it all up in a bow yet.

Lament realizes that we won't always see what we're becoming and what God's doing because we wouldn't have wanted it to happen this way.

The reason this is healthy (year-round) is that painful things become powerful things when we remember that God is with us--not just in the laughter and dancing, but in the bald, dry, broken, uncomfortable, confusing anguish of ordinary life.

A world without discomfort seems like utopia, but it is also stagnant. A world perfectly in order in some dimensions would be horribly imbalanced in others. Winter Wonderlands have no problems to solve, but they have no opportunities either. Lament embraces all God wants to do in the valley as well as the mountain. Lament realizes that we won't always see what we're becoming and what God's doing because we wouldn't have wanted it to happen this way.

Please, deck the halls. Sing "Jingle Bells", kiss under the mistletoe and exchange gifts.

But instead of hoping to escape from real, tough life, take them in as glimpses of God's here-and-not-fully-yet healing, love, joy and creativity. Take some time in the next few weeks to pray as honestly as you know how about what hurts. May God's Spirit illuminate for you that the God of "Comfort and Joy" is available where you actually need him most working for your best.

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