In December when the daylight is the shortest and there is, literally, darkness all around, there is this unsettled sense that things are not as they should be in the world. There are strong feelings of nostalgia.
Watching the bustling of Christmas shopping, hearing the joy-filled Christmas music, seeing families and friends gathering together for "Holiday" parties, can shine a spotlight on the darkness in which many find themselves living. Haunting memories of Christmases past, the loss of loved ones through death, divorce or estrangement, unemployment, loneliness, the thought that there is no one to care for us, or love us - bring a sense of loss and vulnerability, heightened in light of others' apparent mirth. Hanging on is about all we can manage. But when even hanging on becomes too difficult, our own strength no longer able to hold us, what we discover as we lose our grip is that we have fallen into the arms of Christ. Christ's grip is never tighter than when we are free-falling through the dark.
It is precisely in the darkness, in the loss of control, in the unsettledness, in the context of dreams deferred, that the word of God comes to us with a message of hope. The message is not that our pain will vanish, or our struggles cease, but that God is in control of our future, the same God that raised Jesus from the dead.
Unlike the "holidays" Advent reminds us that there is a hope for what is not yet revealed and we wait - wait for God to bring light out of darkness and life out of death.
It is God who has a grip on us and a grip on the future.
It is God who can bring life from death, a promise so sure it does not depend on our faith in it.
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