Advent Devotionals: Tuesday, December 8

LAMENT: The Honest Foothold that Acknowledges Reality

“We are able to trust that he “will” come again, 
just as Jesus has come into our past,
 into our private dilemmas and into our suffering world. 
 Our Christian past then becomes our Christian prologue, 
and “Come Lord Jesus” is not a cry of desperation 
but an assured shout of cosmic hope”

(Richard Rohr, Preparing for Christmas)

Psalm 79, Lamentations 3:1-26, Micah 6:8, Matthew 4:1-11, Philippians 4:11-13

Yes. BUT…  

Those words were the response I received from a friend of mine, triggered by a statement I had just made.  We were talking about all the uncertainty in our world, lamenting about all the loss, wondering what the next few months would look like, anticipating if things would get worse.

And then I, rather mindlessly, said, “We will figure this out.”

To which my friend’s affirmative response of “yes” was reassuring.  However, the “BUT” was laden with all sorts of possibilities, mostly disastrous.

So the two words just hung there with the heaviness of an unspoken question or perhaps the unspoken fear of what was coming next. 

Yes, BUT… at what cost?
Yes, BUT… with how many lives lost?
Yes, BUT… how much political and economical carnage will we have to endure?
Yes, BUT… how do we figure things out when our reality is we have no idea what’s ahead of us?

The truth was, I had no idea how we would figure anything out. The words just blurted out of my mouth. Perhaps it was just some kind of inherent belief that somehow we would. I mean, we have to.  

Could this be called hope? 

I am wondering if there was a similar conversation between friends 2,000+ years ago, lamenting about how awful things were, questioning when their government would be overthrown. What was it like for them to live in an oppressed society under Roman rule? Century after century with prophecy after prophecy of the coming King, the One who would rescue, the One who would make everything right but… still no Messiah!  They too, felt the agony of living in uncertainty with far more questions than answers.  

Then, in an effort to spin the conversation positively, maybe one friend said, “We will figure it out.”  Only to hear back, “Yes, but…”  

How long?  How much longer must we wait?  It’s becoming unbearable.  Too much carnage.  How much more can we survive? 

Here we are again, humanity in need of a miracle.  Nothing else can save us.  We need more than a vaccine.  We need more than insightful and clever politicians.  We find ourselves desperately needing a Saviour.

Author Fleming Rutledge sites the Advent question as “Is there a God?”  She tells us, “The Advent season encourages us to resist denial and face our situation as it really is.”  

This does not sound very festive as we head toward Christmas with our culture pushing and pulling us toward all things merry and bright with continual reminders that “even though it will look different, it’s still the most wonderful time of year!”

We feel the tension as we look around at all the brokenness and suffering. We are bending under the strain of living in “the time in between”.  The despair can be overwhelming. 

Yes BUT… God is with us. There it is… Hope.  If God is with us, then where do we start?  

I suggest we begin with lament.  Lament is a way of honestly expressing our situation and how we feel about it.  We bring our lament to God and cry out to him for help. This is a forgotten practice.  As Christians, we often forget that we are allowed to be unhappy and even be unhappy with God. The Bible is filled with lament, God’s people wrestling with him, pleading and expressing their anger and discontent.  The Psalms are a beautiful, vulnerable and honest expression of disappointment directed squarely at God and asking him to fix it.  

The beauty of lament is that in the face of agony and tears, healing begins.  Faith is renewed. Hearts opened up to God in honesty are filled with the belief that in spite of all the chaos and wickedness, God is still good.  At that point, lament turns to praise.  Sometimes the lament is long and arduous and other times it is short-lived. But the lessons of lament root themselves in deep faith with a new perspective on being human and walking humbly with our God.  Persistence is key.  Keep at it with God until there is breakthrough so you can experience the joy of hope.  

A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn
(O Holy Night)

REFLECTION:
  1. In what parts of your life are you trying to push away the darkness instead of living with it as a teacher and transformer?  What can these dark areas teach you about God, yourself and transformation?

PRACTICES:
  1. Morning Prayers of praise and gratitude. (Suggestion:  Write out your prayers)
  2. Evening Prayers - Examen. 
  3. Scripture Reading as assigned above
  4. LAMENT:  Write your own Psalm.  Begin with honest lamenting to God and see where he takes you. 

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