Christmas is hard to find this year. Advent is here and I want to sink into the excitement that December usually brings, but it’s different this year. Grief and fear are palpable.
Families are running for their lives abroad, climbing out of tiny boats or over fences to hand their babies to strangers offering help. Communities are grieving the loss of sons, daughters and friends who went to work and never came home. Hateful speeches that betray our most basic values are blasted across the Internet, shaming the name of the Church and feeding the lies of the enemy.
Another shooting in the U.S. Another explosion overseas. Cancer. Stillbirth. Accidents that change everything.
The severing feels like it’s going to be too much this time. It feels like the earth will break from the undercurrent of pain. It won’t. It’s going to keep spinning and holding us here while we howl and sort through the mess, but there are days when that doesn’t feel true.
On the surface, Christmas is hard to find this year. Maybe that’s why the anticipation of Advent means more to me now than ever before. Advent offers the hope that at our most desperate moment, light breaks into darkness with redemption and new life. Maybe I understand it more this year than when joy was a bit easier to uncover.
On the Left, Right and all along the middle, people are aching for resolution. We disagree about how to respond, often lashing out in over-the-top outrage, anger and fear.
We won’t all agree on the solutions, but can we at least agree that the darkness is real? It’s heavy and suffocating and heartbreaking.
Frederick Douglass said the “conscience cannot stand much violence.” We either look away and pretend it’s not there or we stand up to do something about it.
In the spirit of Advent—the anticipation of hope and the bright life that broke into a bleeding world with perfect love—let’s agree to be people who flood the darkness with light. Let’s set out to meet great grief with pure love and unmovable truth.
Start and End With Jesus
We refuse to be afraid. We refuse to hate.
Fear has no place in the love and peace of Christ. Jesus was never ambiguous about the state of the world we’d be born into. Trouble is promised, but so is peace. His charge to us is to rebuke fear, and instead, being full of faith and the Holy Spirit, to love God and love each other. (Matthew 8:26, 2:31-34, John 13:34-35, 14:27, 16:33)
When one of the religious leaders asked Jesus how he could have eternal life, Jesus told him to love God and love his neighbor as himself. Wanting to justify his prejudices, the man pressed, “Who is my neighbor?” What followed was the story we now refer to as The Good Samaritan—the story of a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead, only to be repeatedly ignored by the religious elite before finally being cared for by a foreigner.
Jesus asked, “‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
We either need to believe that, or we should stop claiming to be disciples of the man who said it.
Jesus consistently ran down the slippery slopes, without fear or hesitation, to embrace the ones the world rejected.
Replace Outrage With Action
I believe my calling as a believer is to welcome refugees into my country and neighborhood. Despite misinformation floating around the Internet, the vetting process for refugees coming to the United States takes years to complete, and many are deferred or denied. It is the most difficult way to enter America.
I believe that Christ’s charge to love the widows, the orphans and the oppressed includes welcoming them into my home, leaning into love instead of fear.
You don’t have to agree with me about any of that. But can we agree that we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, funding those on the ground, sending supplies and speaking out against hateful, violent, discriminatory acts?
Can we agree that our political differences do not absolve us from our calling to help?
Here are two places to start:
1. Financially support the organizations working to care for and protect the world’s most vulnerable.
What better way to push back against the darkness than to step into it with the very things it’s trying to take away—food, shelter, medical care, protection. Would you consider partnering with one of these organizations to replace outrage with action?
2. Speak up.
Human rights activist Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
When you see the darkness manifest itself in violent, belligerent acts of hate (like these), throw it into the light by exposing it and condemning it. We can disagree on the politics, but Jesus has left no room for uncertainty when it comes to injustice and hate.
Stay Informed and Grateful
Be informed. Challenge the information and fact-check the sources. Be a good steward of this world by knowing what’s going on; and be a good steward of your soul by knowing when to turn off the screen.
Research has shown that consistent exposure to negative news has poor outcomes on our mental health and diminishes the way we view everything else.
Enjoy your people. Be thankful for the luxury of freedom and for the men and women who protect it. Go outside this weekend with no phone, no camera, no news and rest in the stillness.
Gratitude reclaims the joy that darkness tries to steal.
The world didn’t wake up recently a scarier, more broken place than it was. Humanity has been hemorrhaging for centuries. We feel it more now, maybe because we can’t hide from it, maybe because we see so much more than we did before the age of YouTube and Facebook; but the pain is nothing new. How perfect that Advent is this month!
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
‘Til he appeared, and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.
The world is full of suffocating darkness. Let’s be people who flood it with light.