I used to anticipate Christmas. I anticipated The Birth, the joy and the peace. The weeks of waiting, called Advent, intensified the arrival of the baby. The purple-clad days of Advent and its slow burning candles allowed Christmas to burst bright red on the scene, to sound like a crescendo across the landscape. Now I anticipate differently.
I await the redemption of the broken down places and the fractured ways of the world. It’s a longing not quickly resolved by midnight mass or Christmas morning glee. It’s a long-suffering that lingers year after year.
So many Christmases come and go, come and go. Still people remain estranged, hungry, terminally ill, at war, abandoned, raped, victims of hate crimes and racial profiling, vulnerable to abuse and harassment and loneliness. And the coming of Christ hasn’t stopped the genocide, the apartheid, the female infanticide or all the assorted phobias. We remain a city in ruin, our world smoldering. There seems to be none to comfort, none to extinguish our pain.
We sing of peace on earth and good will to men, but we’re as mired in hate and hostility as ever. Even now, they’re fighting at the Temple Mount. We are still crying over Jerusalem. Refugee families continue to flee across borders in hot pursuit of safety. Tyrants walk among us. Oppression is rampant. Families are forced to survive on the streets, to eke out a living under the poverty line, because there is no room in the inn. Our brokenness is ancient, an everlasting sort of ache that doesn’t diminish when the advent candles are put away.
Around this time of year I become a battering ram of lament, pounding against the season’s greetings and wreath-clad doors. We are dying here and there are none to comfort. Does anyone sense the dissonance between our Christmas songs and our actual stories? Does a quick scan of the headlines remind you that Christ, the deliverer, is a long way off? Does anyone care that West Africans are still dying of ebola, Syrian families hang by a thread and brown bodies are under constant threat in their own country?
How long, oh Lord, will we wait for liberation to come? How long, oh Lord, will we wait for the dawn of justice? When will You arrive and turn the world upside down?
I feel as though I’m standing in the inter-testament times, when wars raged on pillaging cities and drenching the streets with blood. In those years only God and the prophets were silent. I imagine the people screamed bloody murder. And there was none to comfort.
These days I emerge as Zion’s Daughter, the very one of Lamentations fame. All I can do is beg God to look and see the destruction. I keep pointing – to Gaza, to Ferguson, to Iran and Crimea. “Do You see? Are You not stirred to action – to come deliver and inaugurate the new age? I collapse in the ash heap and weep for all our brokenness. And there are none to comfort.
Advent asks me the question: what are you waiting for, daughter?
[Previously posted on DeeperStory.com ]