I haven’t seen my mom and dad in over a year.
Because my mom has health issues that makes Covid a particular risk for her, our extended family has made the difficult decision to settle for Zoom gatherings for now. I hate it!
For our family, like yours, the disappointments, grief, fears, and anxiety of 2020 go deep.
- My husband works in the airport industry (yes, it is as bad as you imagine) and probably has some lingering health issues from his bout with Covid in April.
- My older daughter has been unemployed since March, her career as an actor indefinitely on hold.
- My younger daughter is going through some difficult personal losses exacerbated by a global pandemic that impacts her work, her relationships and her ability to finally establish a home.
And yet, our troubles pale in comparison to the larger picture we see when we open our newspaper each morning (ok, we all know it is actually a news app on our device.) Yesterday, our country set two sobering, horrifying milestones:
- the highest one day Covid death tally so far
- the highest number of hospitalizations from Covid to date
And if I’m honest, I find it particularly disturbing that I am mostly numb to the numbers after 8 months of watching them obsessively. These numbers all represent real people, real heartbroken, terrified, grieving people.
We find ourselves in unprecedented times. A strange land for which we have no map.
Oh and it’s Christmas.
Twice lately in my devotional reading, I’ve been invited to consider this Psalm of lament, so fitting for this time of advent waiting.
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
3 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the Lord‘s song in a strange land?
And each time I read it, I hear this haunting melody from one of my favorite musicals, Godspell:
What does the Lord’s song sound like? Here are some of the familiar words this time of year:
- Joy to the World, the Lord is come.
- Go Tell it on the Mountain
- Good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
- The people living in darkness have seen a great light.
The refrains of Christmas, songs of great joy, yet how DO we sing the Lord’s song in this strange land?
Although I’m usually quick to jump to Christmas celebration (hello enneagram 7!) this year I’m finding it a bit more comfortable to linger for a while in the minor chords of advent (see recommendation at the end for a great playlist.)
- More “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and less “Deck the Halls.”
- More quiet contemplation and less jingle bells.
- More pondering in my heart and less gloria in excelsis deo.
I can’t quite bring myself to put the reindeer antlers on my car so far this year.
How do we sing the Lord’s song in this strange land?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but since it seems God has invited me to wrestle with this question this advent season, I’m willing to share my thoughts so far in hopes it might spark ideas for you as well.
Embrace the Lament
2020 sucks. Our country is a dumpster fire. Covid is burning out of control. Our political divisions find us living in two separate REALITIES, instead of just the usual policy differences. All kinds of authority figures who we usually trust to lead us through difficult times are behaving badly, from government to some segments of the church. Millions of people are unemployed and out of hope. Hundreds of thousands of people will have an empty seat at their holiday celebrations this year. Real loss, real pain, real disillusionment. We can not look away and harden our hearts. We cannot pretend or deny or repress.
We must grieve. We honor all we have lost with our tears of lament.
Embrace the Mystery and Paradox
All is not lost. Vaccines are on the way and Covid treatments are more effective. New leadership is taking over. The volume is increasing on voices of reason, of science, of moderation and nuance. I see my church and other people of faith fighting hard for community, for justice, for healing. To stand in the gap for those who need food and rent money. We are all Zoom experts as we continue to find avenues for connection. We are thinking outside the box and tapping into creativity as we find new ways to do our work. We can’t quite celebrate the gifts of this difficult year, but we are starting to believe there might be some silver linings after all. A deeper understanding of what we gain by slowing down, or the extraordinary beauty of ordinary days.
We must pause and ponder. Our faith in a sovereign God increases as we wait through the uncertainty.
Embrace the Joy
YES! There is still joy. We don’t have to choose. We can lament and acknowledge the loss, we can struggle with all that is unknown, AND experience joy when it bubbles up. In fact, Archbishop Desmond Tutu teaches us that our joy is deeper when we can live in the tension between our laughter and our tears:
“Discovering more joy does not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without becoming broken.”
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Sing a song of lament.
Sing a song of wondering.
A few final resources for your Christmas season:
- My usual Christmas playlists are a little too jingle bell-ish this year, so I am loving a new Advent playlist (remember, minor chords) I found through the Sacred Ordinary Days. Here is a link to the playlist on Spotify, if you are interested: Advent with Sacred Ordinary Days
- I am joining my pastor Tom Berlin next Wednesday, December 9th at 7:00 pm as a guest on his FB Live Christmas Conversations. We are talking about cultivating, celebrating, and instigating joy during this unexpectedly difficult Christmas season. Join us online at Tom’s FB page. Reverend Tom Berlin’s Facebook
- If you are interested in a great gift for the person on your list who has everything, consider purchasing an Enneagram Discovery Package for them. I am running a 15% off Christmas special right now on all my Enneagram coaching packages. Check out this link to learn more: Enneagram Christmas Special