It’s that time of year. The most wonderful time of the year, the hap-happiest season of all, where the kids are jingle belling, marshmallows are toasting and hearts are glowing. We all know how the song goes, and we can sing dozens of others that speak to the apparent joy of Christmas.
But this year I must admit: I’m not feeling all the cheer. Call me “Scrooge” or “The Grinch” or compare me to the melancholic Charlie Brown, but the holiday music on the radio, ugly sweater parties and even meaningful traditions with my family all feel a bit thin and phony this year, a mirage or distraction to the dumpster fire of our cultural moment. While I know the King has come, I find myself disappointed and discontent, desperate for the King to come again—and soon. Instead of celebrating what’s good, I find myself lamenting all that is wrong.
At Christmas every year, we consider Jesus Christ—the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Savior. We rejoice at the birth of the King that God’s people awaited for thousands of years. It’s, indeed, a day of celebration.
Yet Advent, the four weeks that lead up to and culminate at Christmas, is meant to be a season of longing and waiting. It’s a time to mourn the chaos of a post-Fall world that continues to spiral out of control and to cry out for the King to come again. That’s the heart of lament: to, as theologian and minister J. Todd Billings says, “throw the promises of God back at Him.” And I’m thankful because that’s where I am right now. It’s the only way I can reconcile what I know to be true with what I see in the depths of my heart and across the bleak landscape of our world.
I hear the words, “Prince of Peace”—I proclaim them with my mouth to be true—yet a look inside my soul and a scroll down my Twitter feed tell a different story. What about the millions and millions of people who have been displaced from their homes in Syria? What about the 58 men and women who were shot down at a concert in Las Vegas? What about our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs who lost their lives while gathering to worship the King? Did He take a break from the throne that morning? What about the perpetual political and racial division in our country—people committing acts of violence because of hate in their hearts for those with a different skin color? That’s our reality, and it is not peaceful.
What about the recesses of my own heart where I feel anxious and unhappy, where I feel an inner angst that there must be something more? Why is my soul so restless? I’m trying to celebrate the Prince of Peace, but I see and feel no peace. I know that Jesus is the “Light of the World,” but I have to ask: Where is the light? Because all I see is darkness.
God has made promises, and it is an act of faith to put those promises in front of Him.
With a string of public incidents, we’ve seen endless examples of men using their power and privilege to dehumanize women. We’ve seen just under one million babies murdered in the name of “human rights” this year. We see 40 million slaves throughout the world—and 25 percent are children. We see hundreds of billions of hours logged toward pornography. We see millions of people addicted to drugs. Has the King really come? Is His kingdom really at hand?
What about our brothers and sisters still enslaved to sin, still walking in darkness? What about those members of the flock who have gone astray? I thought the Savior came to set the captives free. I thought He came to bring justice and righteousness.
This month we celebrate the coming of the King, but echoing the words of David, I find myself asking, “How long, O Lord?” How long before You will come back? How long before the return of the King? How long before You finally and fully reverse sin and death and establish Your kingdom once and for all?
I can’t believe I am alone in this. Maybe you’re not feeling the cheer, either. Maybe this has been a tough year for you. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the violence and chaos that plagues our world. Maybe you feel lost and alienated by our political landscape. Maybe you feel purposeless and incomplete. Maybe your family is struggling. Well, you don’t have to fake it. Lamenting to the Lord is a part of our faith, and these candid prayers can be found all over Scripture. If we can’t be completely honest with our Father, then we obviously don’t trust our Father. God has made promises, and it is an act of faith to put those promises in front of Him.
Advent gives us a season to do this. It reminds us that the Christian life doesn’t come with a big bow on it—not yet, at least—but that there is space to be honest about the brokenness of our hearts and our world. Yet, even though we are distraught and disoriented by such fallenness, we are not without hope. We know that our King has come and He will come again. We know that He will, finally and forever, bring perfect peace and endless light. He will wipe away all our tears, and death will be no more. He will establish His kingdom and uphold it with justice and righteousness. And of His kingdom there will be no end.
I admit that it’s hard to have that hope right now, when it feels like there will be no end to the darkness. It’s difficult to believe that light is truly coming. And I have to be honest with my Father about that, to trust Him even in my doubt. And in my lamentation, I remind myself that He will do what He said He will do. He is for me. He is near me. He is Immanuel—God with us.