“I’m longing, is that enough?
I’m trying to let go and trust
I’m dying each day, everyone does
We need you, and your son, and his blood.”
-Enter the Worship Circle
I did not used to be a fan of the Christmas season. I am not a grinch, I am just naturally resistant to popular past times (I am a recovering cynic, after all). I am the type of person who grows tired of the same songs every year. I grow tired of the same routine. As a kid I would hope for Christmas, but Christmas day felt empty.
Besides the food (Italian seafood!) and presents(never worth the hoopla), I only kept loving one Christmas tradition. I grew up lighting the advent candles, and one of my favorite traditions was the Christmas Eve candlelight service. There was something very moving to me, even as a little girl, to see the whole room go still and dark. And then the candle. The one light of the room is lit. And from that light, each candle in the room glows. The room is still dark, but the noble light shows itself strong.
If I keep one thing in Christmas each year, it would be that.
But I still did not do the Advent thing. I had no advent readings. I did not even think about how certain Christmas songs had a grieving nature.
“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 never thought about these words when I was a child. I just sang them. But now, as an adult, these words, and all the words I am reading and singing, hit me. Like they never have before.
Advent is a season of waiting and longing for the incarnation. Well, we have all have had seasons of waiting, and I am in one.
The power of adhering to the liturgical calendar has never struck like me like this. I sing these songs, and I all of a sudden realize why some of my friends love them all year long. It is reading something you would say, but you do not know how to say it better. That is the scriptures, the songs, and the liturgy of Advent for me. It is all so present. It is all so now.
I am longing. And I do not quite have the emotional availability to fully discuss how I am longing. But my whole life is in this tension of longing and grieving. It is a tug of war between hope and cynicism.
We have all seen the darkness very clearly lately. Whether it’s ISIS, domestic threats, insensitively racist politicians, war, refugees being refused refuge- darkness seems to have a pull over this world. We are all crying, “How long? How long will this endure?”
I cried when I got home from an interview today. “How long, O Lord?” How long will life be this way? I have had a rough time finding vocation in my 20’s and I just want to be settled. But I know I am not alone and I am actually fortunate in a lot of my circumstances. I remember the darkness that cascades over all of us. I remember I am not the only one groaning. And that does not keep me from groaning.
Our circumstances do not define us. Prayer is not about quick fixes. Sometimes we pray to cope but that problem will never go away. But the prayer keeps our light. The prayer helps us to worship and adore the Light that has come and is coming. The prayer resonates in our bones that we are known, loved and cared for, even in hard times. Prayer keeps us hoping even as we are aching.
My heart continues to ache. I long for that time when the light completely overwhelms the darkness, and everything in the world is new. I hope. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. That can be said of our hopes, because we are all hoping in something. We are all sick and tired. We are weary. We want this evil to end.
The room is still dark, but we do have light to shine.
And lets keep our hopes up.
Come, Emmanuel, come.