Christmas can be a time of lights, trees, parties, and decadent food, but it is definitely a season of grief and sadness. For some, it’s the grief of a lost childhood; the holidays remind us of all the brokenness our young lives were immersed in. For many, Christmas is a strong reminder of the death of a spouse, parent, or child. Christmas was the last time my wife spoke with her mother.
Throughout these first days, we’ve looked back at God’s faithfulness in fulfilling every promise of hope He gave His children concerning Jesus. The first prophets boldly proclaimed God’s coming amidst vast consumerism, greed, and a society that seemed “well off”. Then, in later years, prophets declared this hope amidst a broken society, exile, and confusion. As the people grieved the loss of everything, the prophets said things like, “Prepare the way of the Lord! The Lord will gather his people! The King will come and rule with justice and all will be made right.” The Psalmists also wrote in the same time, however, “The Lord watches over us!”
Advent is a moment that pushes us into this odd kind of mourning—a mourning with hope. Grief or mourning described in the Scriptures challenges our notions of grief. It isn’t a Hemingway-esq burying of all emotions and denial of pain. It isn’t a journey to “getting over it” or moving on. On the other hand, it’s not a constant groveling in that pain either. Often, we’re prone to make our grief the central thing about ourselves and the central thing about God. We belittle people’s attempts to speak words of life, encouragement, or truth. The Scriptures don’t tell us how to grieve, but they tell us what we possess in our grief. The Bible tells us of the accompanying presence of hope.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NLT):
Dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
And then in 1 Peter 1:3-6 (NIV):
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
The incarnation of God in Jesus guarantees hope as a possession in every trial and at the foot of every grave of every fallen saint. The core of your mourning contains a lasting hope in Christ’s arrival, His death, His resurrection, and His return. This hope doesn’t expel weeping, often it welcomes it.
When you are informed, as Paul says, of the hope of Christ, or when you’ve received the inheritance of hope, as Peter describes, you see the world more clearly. You see the fractured marriages, you see the pain of loneliness, the injustice of poverty, the horror of war, and all of creation itself cracking under the weight of pressure of human sin. You see those things, knowing this is not how Jesus intended His world to be. You also see those things and know that, through the sacrifice of Christ’s life and in the great wealth of His love, all of this will be made new.
I invite you to spend time reflecting on this question: What hope does this Christ-Child Almighty God bring you? Where do you need that hope?
How will you respond when it arrives in the ordinary and the humble?