The Weary World Rejoices

This year I am weary. Maybe it’s my cynicism flaring up, but I feel the weight of our present reality more acutely than in years past.

I’m worn out by our political climate. I’m tired of the name calling and the line drawing, the hypocrisy and the partisanship. I’m tired from holding my tongue and I’m tired from speaking up (however infrequently). I’m fatigued by our lack of decency and our infatuation with power at any cost.

I’m worn out by the Church too. From our political idolatry for sure, but also our constant bickering over petty stuff. I’m tired of watching people walk away from faith because they were shown an inaccurate view of God. I’m drained by self-appointed gatekeepers intent on keeping people out. I’m worn out by church as entertainment and the pull to chase crowds and celebrity. I ache for congregations doing their best to be faithful in a world that has no time for them. And I’m tired of story after story about how we who are called to bless the world have instead wounded God’s beloved.

I’m exhausted from grief as I see people limp through life. From those who are denied justice to those who have made a mess of things.

I see friends and family and strangers on the internet who carry heavy loads. Who battle trauma and depression and estrangement. I watch as people wrestle with doubt and hardship and diagnoses that suck the life right out of them. People we love and people who are us have struggled in finances and bodies and loneliness and child rearing and every single other thing. It has run us ragged.

I’m tired from the 24 hour news cycle. The constant outrage. The constant apathy. The refugee crisis and gun violence and racism and terrorism and war and suicide and consumerism and all of it.

I’m weary from all the times I’ve blown it and all the times I wish I had chosen differently. I am even tired from knowing I have it better than so many others and my seeming inability to bring about progress.

I am weary.

And yet.

The old song sings, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.”

A thrill of hope that Jesus is here. On our side. At work. Restoring. Redeeming. Re-orienting us.

Despite our brokenness. Despite our shame. Despite our constantly screwing it up and never getting it all right, God is with us.

God sees our mess and moves toward us to show us the way. The way out of and away from all the things that beat us down. A God who comes not to burden us but to carry our burdens for and with us.

A God who comes to the bedraggled and barely making it. To battered souls and threadbare faiths. A God who comes and offers unconditional love and incomprehensible peace even in the midst of all that is wrong.

I believe there will be a day when weariness will be no more and darkness will be banished and justice will roll like a river. I believe in a day with no more sickness or political pandering or shattered hearts.

However far off that day feels, Christmas reminds us that it isn’t out of reach. A better world is on the way. The someday we await is just over there, as close as the next dawn.

The light of eternal sunrise is waking from its slumber. It creeps across the horizon, slowly stretching its warm fingers and chasing away all that is shadow. It will not, can not be held back.

When we look for it we can see it. When we are uncertain we can walk toward it. When we are undone by the weight of it all we can rest in and celebrate the goodness of God’s coming.

Even our longing for rest and wholeness serves as a reminder that God is on the move. With us. When we hurt. When we fail. When we want to crawl into bed and sleep for a decade. When hope feels more like an ache than an excitement.

God is near. The sun will rise. The angels will sing. Our tears will be dried. And life and light will bring all that we need.

So rejoice, weary world. Lift up your head. You are not forgotten. You are not alone. All will be made new. Love has come.

Advent: Hope for a Dark World

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Candles. Mike Labrum, unsplash.com

Turn on the news. Pull up your Facebook feed. Go outside. The world is a dark and messy place. It is full of destruction and darkness and death.

Battles rage around the globe. In Aleppo, Syria not a single hospital has avoided bombing. In the United States there are approximately 415,000 children in foster care, mostly due to the harmful choices parents have made. Families fleeing war wash up on foreign shores. 1 in 3 women in the world today is a victim of physical and/or sexual violence. We are still a nation viciously divided by politics and race and culture.

None of those things are part of the world that God intended. None of them are welcome here. And one day, all them will be defeated.

The ancient prophet Isaiah wrote these words about that one day:

The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2)

No more war. No more violence. No more greed induced destruction. No more hate.

The things we once used for harm will now be used for nourishment. We’ll turn our bombs into flower pots and machine guns into shovels. We’ll turn our tanks into merry go rounds and our jails into libraries. One day we’ll use our protest signs to roast marshmallows and the police will use their batons for a game of stickball.

This is not some crazy pipe dream. This is not some hippy fantasy. This is God’s plan and vision for the world.

This Advent we put our hope in that vision. And while God’s vision isn’t fully realized yet, it has begun.

It begins with the coming of Christ. A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It is realized when the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and the lonely are loved. It breaks through when forgiveness is found and lost sons and daughters come home.

It doesn’t just happen in our churches. It happens in our day to day. It doesn’t just happen one day way off in the future. It happens now in our hearts and in our homes.

If one day we will put away our weapons, perhaps we should put them away today. Maybe we don’t fight with swords or guns but we’ve likely wounded and cut with our words. We’ve likely caused pain and destruction in the way in which we treat others. Lets beat our words and thoughts into things that bring encouragement and growth.

If one day all wrongs will be made right and all enemies will become friends and all strangers will become neighbors, then lets work to make that a reality today.

If one day peace will reign, then I want to begin to realize that peace today. I want to be first in line to make it a reality in my world.

We have hope that God will make all things right. That justice will roll down like a mighty river. That the things that now destroy will one day be destroyed. That darkness will ultimately give way to light.

That is our hope. And that is our mission. We don’t just live with hope, we work toward that hope. With expectation. With anticipation.

We live and work with a holy ache for the world as it should be. We put in the blood, sweat, and tears to join God in the redemptive mission to reconcile all things.

We put our hope in Christ and therefore reject the idea that we can hate our enemies. We put our hope in Christ and we live as ones who cannot be finally defeated. We put our hope in Christ and lay down our rights. We put our hope in Christ and live as ambassadors of God’s Kingdom and work to bring about the beautiful vision laid out by Isaiah.

This Advent season join in God’s vision to bring all people together and to bring an end to the wars that rage on the news and in our hearts and in our homes.

Let’s walk in the light. Let’s defeat darkness little by little, candle by candle. Let’s see the world as God intended. Let’s work toward that end. Let’s hope relentlessly and let’s be that hope with skin on.