By Ashton Murray
We are in the midst of Advent season! We, the Church, experience this season as a time of expected newness and hope. As the world braces itself for the year to end, the Church celebrates the beginning of a new year, a new time, a new reality in the birth of Jesus the Christ. In jubilation and adoration we prepare our lives and our hearts for the coming of the Messiah. Hope abounds.
However, sometimes our present realities hamper our ability to embody the spirit of hopefulness that this season entails. Over the past few weeks, our country has witnessed the outcome of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri. Regardless of our personal feelings on the outcome of the trial, surely we can empathize with a mother’s and father’s pain of having to bury a child. What does hope look like for Michael Brown’s parents? What does hope look like for any parent who has buried their child and faces reminders in every experience of family and togetherness during this time of the year.
Likewise, what does hope look like for those who are still suffering from the economic collapse? What does hope look like for those grieving the lost of loved ones to Ebola in western Africa? What does this season of Advent mean for the child who lost their father or mother to cancer during the past year?
Perhaps these are the people most in need of Advent–the ones who have had to deal with unbearable and inescapable grief. Author and theologian Sarah Bessey writes that Advent is about longing. We long for the good shepherd that Isaiah, Ezekiel and the other prophets promised to us–the shepherd that promises to gather us together, reconciling us despite the things that separate us.
While the complexities and experiences of life leave us tired and weary, we long for the shepherd that promises to lead us by the still waters and give us rest. Our hearts beg us to search and find the secret place in which (despite the storm) we feel protected under the shadow of the almighty.
Despite the grief and perilous times that surround us, Advent offers hope because we know longing for relief and celebration. Although the murkiness of your situation may hide the spirit of joy and celebration from your sight, I hope that you find hope in the lyrics of the old hymn,
“Arise, your light is come!
Fling wide the prison door;
proclaim the captives’ liberty,
good tidings to the poor.
Arise, your light is come!
All you in sorrow born,
bind up the broken-hearted ones,
and comfort those who mourn.”
Ashton Murray is a CBF Leadership Scholar attending Wake Forest University School of Divinity.