As we have pondered, Advent is for those who wait.
And Advent is for those who wander.
Today, we sit with the reality that Advent is also for those who weep.
Christ’s arrival invites us into the full range of human emotion.
Yes, this weekend we light the third candle of JOY.
And yes, we remember the good news of great joy that is for all people.
We rejoice in Christ our Savior.
We acknowledge the suffering around us.
We mourn the pain within us.
We lament our losses and longings.
And we trust that our sorrow is safe in the hands of the Savior.
I titled this poem “Those Who Weep,” based on the suffering and sadness many faced in Israel as Herod killed the baby boys at the time of Christ’s birth.
Then, through the guided (experiential!) practice to follow, we explore how our own sorrows increase our capacity for joy.
This is for those of us who are learning the language of lament.
Who are allowing loss to unlock our hearts to love.
May our tears be our prayers.
T H O S E W H O W E E P
There were tears that first Christmas
The loud wailing and heaving kind.
The deep groaning and grieving kind.
“Voices heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Refusing to be comforted,
For her children are no more.” *
A collective cry
That filled Bethlehem with despair.
Oh, how could Jesus be there
How could such pain exist
At the same time
In the same town
How could this overwhelming grief
Leave any room leftover
How could their sorrow
This bright Hope for tomorrow?
How could lament
But it did.
And it does.
Your cries are not a contradiction
To the coming
Of the Christ.
Your fears are not an affront
To the faithfulness
Of the Father.
Your tears need not
You have permission to have a broken heart.
You are welcome to weep and to wail.
You are allowed to lament your losses.
Your sorrow is safe in the hands of the Savior.
Heartache is simply a given in this broken world.
But Joy is Given
By a Good, Good Giver.
May He give you this Christmas,
Grace in the wilderness **
Gladness for sorrow **
Joy for your mourning **
Bright hope for tomorrow. **
May it be so.
* Jeremiah 31
** Also Jeremiah 31. Because pain and peace exist in the exact same place.
A P R A C T I C E
Get out a pen and a piece of paper.
You may not be an artist (I am certainly not), but sometimes it’s helpful to draw pictures instead of say words—no matter how messy.
First, draw a flat line to be the ground—sky above, dirt below.
Next, make several small dots to be seeds—planted deep under the soil.
Now, above the ground, draw a bright sun as well as dark rain clouds.
Under the clouds, draw many drops of rain. These symbolize the many tears you’ve cried in sadness or loss, anger or brokenness.
Maybe picture yourself in those moments of desperation and remember where you were and how your grief felt.
Now, draw long and strong roots coming down out of the seeds.
How did your weeping actually water your soul to bring greater strength and new deepening?
Now, draw tall and sturdy shoots coming up from the roots. Maybe draw a flower or two.
Where have you seen life and flourishing come from what was dead?
When has your weeping actually led to a great harvest for reaping, instead?
Remember now how you have needed both sunshine and rain, time and pain…
Take a moment to thank God for both.
A P R A Y E R
of blessing for the hurting, from Psalm 126 SPV *
May you, who have gone out,
Sowing sorrow as seeds
One day return
Holding hope for your grief.
May the burdens you buried
In this deep, dark soil,
Become the blessings you carry,
A fulfillment of joy.
May you who have planted with pain
And you who have watered with weeping
Bravely wait for that day,
When you look up to see,
A great harvest for reaping.
* Sarah’s poetic version
More of Sarah’s works can be found at https://www.sarahbourns.com or @sarahbournscrosby on Instagram.