Today’s Word from Deacon Amy…
Advent is one of my favorite seasons! It is a season filled with hopeful anticipation. We spend our time waiting, and preparing for the Christmas celebration. We put up lights, decorate trees, shop for the perfect gifts for our loved ones, bake cookies, and light candles. Advent is a beautiful, joyful season.
One of the best things about Advent is the music – the season is filled with musical longing and celebration. I started flipping through my hymnal today, looking for my favorite Advent and Christmas songs, when I noticed a bookmark that has been waiting there since March. You see, I was supposed to preach at one of our Lenten evening services in March, and I had chosen the hymn for the evening, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”
That little bookmark stopped me in my tracks. Wow. Was it really that long ago that we had to close our sanctuary to communal worship? In March and April, we finished the Lenten season at home. We were heartbroken to spend Holy Week and Easter worshiping online instead of in person. Then we continued to be worshiping together – apart – throughout the long season of Pentecost. Now we find ourselves in the season of Advent, preparing for an online Christmas Eve service. It’s kind of shocking to realize how long it’s been since we’ve all been together.
Back to the hymnal and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” I’m trying to remember exactly why it was that I chose this song back in early spring. I know that I hadn’t yet gotten around to writing my sermon (I admit to being a bit of a procrastinator), but I had chosen the song weeks before. It is one of my favorites – ok, I have a lot of favorites – but this is a great one. It is a song that falls into the “Lament” category of the hymnal, a section that I think we could all find some comfort in right now.
The dictionary defines Lament as, “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” I don’t know about you, but this pandemic season has felt pretty full of grief and sorrow for me. I’ve felt grief for the loss of events, trips, and gatherings, and sorrow about being separated from friends, family, and communal worship for so long. I think that the Lament section of the hymnal might be a good place to pause for a moment.
“How Long, O God” is the next song in this section of the hymnal. This seems to be very fitting for what I’ve been feeling lately. To be honest, I’m kind of “done” with this whole pandemic/quarantine thing. I’d like to move on – or perhaps even move back. The lyrics in this hymn are ringing true for me today:
How long, O God? The psalmist cries,
A cry we make our own,
For we are lost, alone, afraid
And far away from home.
Your grace, O God, seems far away;
Will healing ever come?
Our broken lives lie broken still;
Will night give way to dawn?
How can we hope? How can we sing?
O God, set free our voice
To name the sorrows, name the pain,
That we might yet rejoice.
On the surface, these words may not sound comforting, but I do find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in my feelings of lament. For generations, millennia even, people have been calling out to God with our pain, our despair, our hope. And for generations, God has been listening. The last line of the hymn reminds us, “Though we are lost, alone, afraid, our God will lead us home.”
Although it is understandable, and perhaps even healthy, to pause and sit in our feelings of lament, I remind you that we have entered the season of Advent. Advent, a season of hope and longing. We know that the Christ child is coming. We know that God has come to earth to be with us. We know the next chapter in God’s story, and we can find comfort in that.
Wishing you peace and hope in this season!