Advent is a tricky time. For many it is a celebration of love, joy, peace, hope, and faith. For others it is a reminder of the lack of those things in their lives. Many people get depressed during this time of year due to comparing their lives to the abundance that seems to be around them. Some people enter into this season with grief because something is missing – a job, a place to call home, or a family member or friend.
For the next few days, I'll be reflecting on grief in a different way. The start of this Advent season has me pondering not only the grief around me from members of my congregation but pondering the grief that Jesus has when he looks at the world. What does he see that is missing? Where does he think we have fallen short? To be sure there are many answers to these questions but one answer began to emerge for me as during this introspective journey with grief.
I spent Thanksgiving this year in Madeira Beach, Florida. It was beautiful and warm and I had lots of family around me. We stayed in a beautiful home with more food than we could eat. When I got back home, I got a call asking for our church to help pay for a hotel room for a family with children who is homeless. We put out the Angel Tree in our Narthex so that congregation members can help children in our community have presents this Christmas. We compiled a list of food to gather for the local food bank to alleviate hunger. The stark contrast between my holiday of abundance and the need I experienced upon my return was compelling. In that moment I knew that Jesus grieves over poverty in this world.
In the book of Luke (4:18a) Jesus says that the words of Isaiah are fulfilled: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” Is Jesus’ message still good news to the poor or is it just good news to the privileged? Jesus’ message is for all of us yet we live in a broken world. I, in particular, live in a privileged and broken world. This broken world perpetuates poverty. This is what I grieve over this Advent. While I know that hope is possible, I also know that the grieving process is important. Tomorrow I will post a photograph representing grief over poverty. I wanted to use a photo to express my grief because my step-mom was a photographer and the anniversary of her death is Dec.1. I always remember grief over her this time of year. The subject of my photo wasn’t that difficult to find. I was able to take the picture on the property of my church. While poverty is a global issue, I want us to always remember that global issues are not immune to our own backyards.
For anyone reading this, I invite you to journey with me and grieve over our broken world. Hope is important. Hope is here. But hope is made more meaningful if we truly allow ourselves the spiritual practice of grief.
Until Everyone Hears,
(in full disclosure this is part of one of my doctoral classes but I thought it would be a helpful process so I decided to share it here as well)