Last Christmas Eve, I shared a lament as bushfires raged around us, crying out for Emmanuel to come. And for the last couple of years, I’ve led my church’s Blue Christmas services, a space for people to name the griefs and sadnesses of the year and the challenges this season can bring.
As the year ticked over to 2020, a year long anticipated as a nice round number as well as for its association with perfect vision, perhaps we hoped the time for lament had passed. Perhaps we anticipated this year wouldn’t need space for being “blue”.
We all know how that went.
Now we come to the end of a disappointing and difficult year, a year where awareness of our frailties and weaknesses has been heightened, a year where lament has been a constant companion for many of us.
The words and spaces for sitting in the “blue” seem more important than ever.
And yet perhaps we are still hoping that ticking over to 2021 will make everything new again. Or perhaps we are pinning our hopes on a vaccine to bring about a return to “normal”. We find ourselves once again longing, yearning, expectant.
Lament and hope. Hope and lament.
This is our world. This is our humanity. In the midst of life we are in death. Joy and sorrow go hand in hand. We know this to be true. And yet we always find ourselves longing for more.
For me, this is why the biblical story is so powerful. It names this reality and it explains this longing. We were created for more. We live in the in-between. One day all will be restored. There is both space to lament and invitation to hope.
And at the centre of that story is the moment where lament and hope meet. When humanity’s groaning and longing is answered by a God who steps into the middle of the mess and brokenness. With the coming of a baby. Emmanuel. God in our midst.
This Christmas Eve my prayer is that we will find space to lament: to groan and cry out, to yearn and long, to name that where we live is not where we hope to be.
And in our lamenting, may the baby of Bethlehem, the promised Messiah, the Desire of God’s people and the Light of the world, meet us in the midst and bring true hope, hope for the restoration and redemption that is found only in him.