Hope and lament rarely occupy the same room together in our imaginations. But they, like most paradoxes of the human experience, often live side by side in our hearts.
Advent begins awkwardly just as Christmas decorations are going up along with increased levels of Christmas cheer and many hopes of what is to come under the tree. At the very start of our unbridled Christmas excitement (and glad denial of our bank accounts and circumstances), we are asked to weep. To be sad. To sit in darkness.
This is a difficult task in an age of instant gratification, a society that has managed to eliminate waiting through technology and credit, a place where we are in charge of our own self-improvement.
Advent comes to us quietly in the midst of a rainy cold November and whispers, "Do you recognize yourself anymore? Do you know how much you need rescuing? Will you sit in the darkest parts of your life - the broken parts unhealed by technology and prosperity, and wait for God?"
Waiting is obsolete these days. It's unpopular, unsexy and considered a sign of weakness to some. Much better to take your destiny into your own hands, act now, don't wait, live your best life today! You can have everything you dream of (or at least, that you have the cash or credit to purchase).
Well, almost everything.
The one thing that we desperately need can't be bought, or worked towards, or achieved.
What we really need is to be rescued from ourselves - deeply transformed and healed.
And this is cause for lament. Because what we've been doing hasn't been working.
How uncomfortable - the cry of loss, the regret, the realization that we haven't actually been able to fix ourselves after all. No wonder we don't spend much time here - it's too painful.
To be clear, this kind of reflection is not despair. We are not meant to stay in darkness and self recrimination, listening to condemnation and regret on repeat. But our souls need the space to pause and reflect honestly on ourselves.
Enter hope. As we sit in our darkness with honesty and humility, and set aside the to do lists, the calendars of self-improvement, the glowing distractions of many a screen, a small flame flickers to life. A flame of truth instead of the bright electric glare of our made up selves, our social media selves, our polite personas.
Advent begins here - in the most uncomfortable and incredible place possible. The voice of hope says simply, "Come. Come as you are. Come with your darkness and wait humbly for the One who will rescue you."