An Advent Lament

This week we lit the candle of joy for Advent. However, I am fixed in a season of lament. I am not in despair, nor am I enduring any particular suffering personally, but I know many who are. Among family and friends, there are those who have lost loved ones to COVID. Some are dealing with job loss, divorce, and yet more are spiritually discouraged. The political distractions have weighed us down and we are disheartened by the public discourse so full of vitriol. It is a heavy season.

We are isolated.

Lonely.

Deeply discouraged.

Or maybe it’s just me. But I suspect not.

What does it look like to wait for His glorious appearance as His church while not fully in community? What does it mean to remain faithful while at home, sheltering in place?

Does this resemble your home communion? The Eucharist can take on different forms in different places, but during this season of quarantine, I am interested in how individualized and “homey” the forms of Christ’s body and blood have become.

More of our worship times have gone to Zoom with the colder weather and spikes of COVID cases. While our family’s participation in the Eucharist looks like the photo above, I know the truest story is that we are still being lifted up to the heavens week after week as we take in the body and blood of Christ. The heavens and the earth yet rejoice.

Although it is difficult for me to muster the emotion, my faith knows the hope of joy and peace we will one day experience fully.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:1-5 (NLT)

Does God feel far away as we are in the midst of a pandemic-induced isolation? Does he seem distant from our political and social strife, or personal sadness?

Because our Creator created us for community, it hurts when we are without the physical presence of others. In truth, we are created in his own communal, trinitarian image. We most often experience God through others.

This beautiful commemorative 2020 ornament of the Holy Family is the artwork of Clarey ClayWorks in Carmel, Indiana.

How did Mary, the mother of the Christ, endure? Did she feel God was far away with every sideways glance at her growing belly? She was likely shunned. Her life had changed drastically. And yet, when she may have felt the loneliest, there were Elizabeth and faithful Joseph, and God drawing closer to her, growing inside her, the closest he had ever been.

So he is with us, just as he promised.

He doesn’t necessarily carry us out of our grief and hardships, but sits with us in them. Entangled with our moments of sadness, we also have the joy of hope. We have Christ Himself.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;

he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalms 34:18 (NLT)

Point

There are times when I gaze upon my oldest son, A, and just feel profoundly blessed. In these moments I feel both thankful and competent in parenting him. When I truly look and see him for who he is in all his astounding intelligence, quirky behavior, and compassionate, tender heart, I am humbled and proud that he belongs to this family. I am happy that God placed him here in our care. Then there are those other times. No, I am not a horrible parent, nor does my love waver. And yet there are other times, other times when I am quick to lose patience. Quick to think that Asperger’s is just an excuse today for disobedience and callousness (Did I just say that out loud?). Quick to actually tell him that I have already answered that same question four times in a row. During these times I begin to feel disatisfied and overwhelmed. How in the world will I parent today, much less through the weighty days ahead of me?! How could God find him a home here? Why has he entrusted me with so much?

Motherhood can be overwhelming.

Then, I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a young girl. How did she get through it?

“May it be as you have said.” Luke 1:38

A is a precious soul whom God has entrusted to me and my husband to raise, nurture, and point in the right direction. Mary, however, was given the Creator. How is it even possible to train God? How is it possible to teach God to fold laundry? to breathe deeply before he gets upset? to pray?

“With God all things are possible.” Luke 1:37

Did Mary feel overwhelmed, impatient, unworthy? How did she cope when she just didn’t feel capable? When she didn’t have an education? creativity? energy?

“for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” Luke 1:49

There are times when my grandiose plans for the day, or the year, seem to overshadow the simple fact that A, S and G need me to point them to Jesus. There are a myriad of things they need to learn before they reach eighteen, but no task is greater than pointing them to Jesus.

“[Mary] treasured all these things in her heart.Luke 2:51b

As a mother, Mary knew that in order to teach the Son, she had to spend time with the Father. As a mother, I struggle with teaching my son, because I so often fail to spend time with the loving Father. He pointed the wise men toward Bethlehem by a unique star. The shepherds ran, dazed and excited, pointing others to a lowly stable in Bethlehem. Life skills and social skills are important, but what is vital is that A know Jesus. Someone needs to point the way.

I recently sang the old Christmas carol, “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Part of the third stanza prompted me to think of Mary and Joseph as vulnerable, as vulnerable as I am.

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise,
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

They struggled. They were small, as small as a stable. All Mary had was her willing heart. She knew how to point.

Motherhood is overwhelming. Although I may not be as competent as A deserves, I am always able to point, to point to the One who inspired a unique star.

Holy is his name.