Advent is Painful

This might be the most Adventy of Advent. If there ever was one, this is it, at least for our generation. I can imagine the Advent season during the Civil War, the Great Depression, and WWII were also “Adventy.” You might wonder what I mean by that… Those are all times when there was tremendous waiting. But not waiting like we are waiting for a package. Not waiting like we are counting down the days until vacation. No, this is a different kind of waiting. This is long-suffered waiting. Advent is not excitement. It is pain. Painful waiting. The earth groans and cries out in Advent, pleading not to be forgotten. This is the kind of waiting that is associated with exile. 

So many times, the season of Advent is paired with words like “anticipation” or “excitement.” Words that denote a joyful waiting. Even the great hymn “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” signifies this, with light dancing notes of excitement. If you haven’t heard it, I invite you to look it up. A further look at the words of this great Advent hymn, reveals a different reality. “Comfort those who sit in darkness, Mourning in their sorrows load.” This is Advent. Advent is the season for the suffering, for those who are grieving and those who are afraid. So much has been made of fear, lately. Living in faith instead of in fear. Not letting fear overcome you. Yet, Advent is for those who are deathly afraid. Whatever it is they might be afraid of, that is not the point. The point is it is for them. This is what makes Advent, Advent. 

Think of a little child who is tucked into bed at night. He is afraid of the dark. He is afraid of the rain pattering against the window panes. Afraid of the thunder that rattles the house and the lightning that reveals unforeseen shadows on the wall. The night is long, and sleep escapes him as his heart rate rises and falls. Amongst the crashing thunder his small, insignificant voice cries out “MOM! DAD!” But no one hears him. He does not dare set foot on the floor, because that’s where monsters dwell. He is trapped on an island. All he can do is wait. All he can do is wait for the sun that seems as if it will never rise. He does not wait in excitement for the night to end, but in excruciating longing. It feels like an eternity. This is Advent. 

Advent is a mother waiting for the letter from her son at war so that she knows he is still alive. Advent is a man who is waiting for the phone to ring after an interview, knowing jobs are almost nonexistent. Advent is a mother who has had multiple miscarriages waiting to hear the heartbeat of the little life growing inside of her. Advent is a child who is simply waiting out the excruciating night, longing for the sun to rise on a new day. This is Advent, and it is for you. Do not gloss it over with icing on cookies and Christmas lights. Instead, acknowledge the darkness. 

You all have darkness of your own, whether you acknowledge it or not. You are the ones who are on the receiving end of the joyful and peppy tune of “Comfort, Comfort.” You are the ones who have sat in darkness during this historic year of chaos, tumult, and isolation. You are the ones who Christ promises to comfort. Your comfort has come in Christ, yet you still wait; longingly, painfully, as an insignificant voice crying out of the darkness. Christ is coming to you. So, “Comfort, Comfort ye my people,” says your God. “Comfort, Comfort, ye my people” says Jesus… “For I am coming soon.”