If you are currently lacking in ‘Tra la, la’, allow me to bring you some ‘comfort and joy’.
Yesterday I shouted at the man on the radio (there will be a fair amount of shouting in this post, indicated by capital letters, do feel free to join in).
The DJ said, ‘Advent is about waiting for Christmas’
‘NO, IT IS NOT!’ I shouted.
The season of advent is NOT about waiting to celebrate his first coming but all about waiting with longing for his second coming. What’s more, Advent is traditionally a time of lament. In other words it is a time in the church year when we are allowed, nay, even encouraged to sit down and say ‘Well this is rubbish, isn’t it?’. Once we get to Christmas we celebrate that God did indeed come and lived with us and we are comforted by the way that changes everything but on the way there we allowed to acknowledge that life at the moment isn’t all that it could be.
Most weeks in the communion service most Anglicans recite the story that frames our faith:
‘Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again’
It’s a statement of faith, we believe that Christ died, we have accepted by faith that he rose again but we wait with eager hope for the last part of that statement. And while he hasn’t yet returned to put everything right, it’s perfectly okay to say that life is often a long way off being perfect, in fact more often than not, it’s really rather grim:
‘I’m sick/my teeth hurt/ I can’t sleep/my friends are ignoring me/ my enemies hate me without cause/I’m worn out with crying/God doesn’t appear to be listening/all this praying and being faithful doesn’t seem to have got me anywhere’
Tick any of the above that apply to you!
Is that my personal list of moans? No, not entirely, although I will sign up to the first three but the rest are all paraphrases taken from the Psalms. In other words, good and Godly people have come to God and said this kind of stuff. They are all from the psalms of lament and more than half of all the Psalms are Psalms of lament.
The very presence of these Psalms give us permission to come to God and say ‘WHERE ARE YOU GOD? THINGS ARE A BIT PANTS FOR ME RIGHT NOW’. And we call that…? what?
Complaining? Well, yes, maybe.
Letting the side down? No, I don’t think so.
Worship? Yes DEFINITELY. It IS definitely worship to come honestly to God and tell him how it is with you. (There’s not really a lot of point coming any other way, because he knows anyway). But how can it be worship? Because the very act of coming to God to complain is an act of faith. It’s okay to come to God and say ‘I’m not despairing, I’m not giving up but yes, I am having a hard time clinging on just now, but even so I AM coming to you God because somewhere inside of me there is seed of faith that says you are there and you are listening and you are the only one who can really answer’.
So don’t get all hung up about having to be happy at this time of year, if you’re not. (If you are happy, you probably haven’t read this post, you’ve probably gone off to dig out your CD of 100 Christmas Carols and Hymns and don’t let me stop you…I’m happy for you, believe me)
But God is better pleased by an honest lament that life is not how it should be than by us putting on a false and jolly gloss over the painful realities of life.
‘From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help… I long for the Lord, more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn’ (Psalm 130)
So ‘Come, Lord Jesus, Come’.