It seems like a strange idea, lamenting through Advent. After all, Advent is a time of celebration, or at least a time to prepare for celebration. Advent means “coming” and we use this time to get ourselves ready to celebrate the coming of Jesus, both his first coming and his second coming for which we are still waiting. So, why in the world would we consider lamenting through Advent?
The anticipation of Jesus’ coming, or in our case, his second coming, is the anticipation that all that is wrong in this world will finally be put right. All the hurts and sorrow of life will finally be healed. All the broken relationships of life will finally be mended. God’s justice will finally prevail so that all acts of evil and sin will be fully atoned. Above all these, we will witness the glory of God and we will finally know the peace which we have longed for over these many, many years.
We anticipate and long for this moment because we know that all we are hoping for is not yet present. Sin and evil continue to plague our lives. The hurts and sorrows of life continue to pile up adding pain upon pain. So, on the one hand, we prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming of Jesus. On the other hand, we cry out of the anguish of our lives because the day of Jesus’ return has not yet happened. It is for this reason that we can lament our way through Advent.
The psalm writers wrote down their laments and sung them to the only one who could answer the question that they most often asked, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and everyday have sorrow in my heart?” Like the psalm writers, we too could ask our own questions. How long, O Lord? How long will we have to deal with this pandemic? How long will we be a people divided? How long will we suffer the loss of our loved ones? How long will sickness devastate my body, or the lives of those I love? How long will evil have its way in our world? How long will it be until you come back and make all things new, until you put all things right? How long until thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?
Lamenting through Advent does not deny the celebration for which we are preparing. In many ways, lamenting through Advent keeps us honest with life and highlights the hope that we cling to during the anguished moments of life. Lamenting through Advent allows us to look adversity square in the face and declare that it will not have the final word because the final word comes from the God who comes to us in Jesus Christ. It is his coming, both the first time, and the time for which we are waiting, that will turn our lament into joy. So that, like the lament writers, we too can say, “But, I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”