He looked across the table at me and said, “I’m afraid for my kids and the world they’ll grow up in.”
“Yeah,” I empathized, “twenty sixteen hasn’t been the year some of us had hoped for.”
“It’s sad and bigger than that: I think I’ve lost all faith in humanity.”
Nodding my head, I put my hand on his shoulder, “It’s okay to feel that way today, but tomorrow, let’s wake up and at least believe in one another. I’ll believe in you, and you believe me. And remember, I’m a Jesus guy, so that means I believe that God hasn’t left us to ourselves.”
“Okay, Kevin. I’ll let you be optimistic tomorrow, then. But today, I just want to lament a little.”
Perhaps you’re like my friend. Perhaps 2016 was full of days where you just wanted to lament a little. And that’s okay. You’re justified in your lament. This year left many weary—weary from politics, war, injustice, personal loss, and adversity.
Shoot, I’ll join the lament.
I lost my dad to Parkinson’s this year.
My back failed me this year.
I needed surgery and extended bed rest this year.
I did more funerals in 2016 than in all my years of ministry before it.
And then, there’s the election. It’s affected all of us. It prompted the above conversation, and with every new tweet from our president-elect, I question the future of our country.
However, at the end of a year like this one, let’s not let our lament interfere with our hope. (Reread that last sentence).
As we talked about on Sunday, the promise of Christmas is Immanuel: God with us. The story of the Christ-child freshly born among us is ultimately a story about God’s desire to be born within all of us, in the midst of our pain and struggle. It’s a story of hope emerging from circumstances of lament. It’s the perfect promise for a weary world looking for renewal.
Remember, Jesus wasn’t born into a happy situation. He was born in a barn. His parents were refugees. They had to flee their home to save their child’s life. Jesus’ mother was to be outcast or worse, given the circumstances of her pregnancy. It’s fair to say Jesus’ family had more reason to lament than we have today. But they didn’t. They had the courage to hope. The promise made to them is the same promise made to us: “And God will give you a sign, the virgin shall give birth to a son, and he shall be called Immanuel, which means God with us.”
As one theologian puts it, “Jesus was born in a barn and not in a palace because the Kingdom enters into our crap and not into our competence.”
If you find yourself lamenting 2016, then Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. Lament, but let that lament open up space in your heart to hope. As the Scriptures say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Perhaps God is waiting there for you, waiting in your lament, inviting you to hope. Perhaps it’s in the cracks of your broken year where God is most present, where the promise of Christmas is most true.
God with us.
May we have the courage to hope this Christmas season. May we never forget that God is with us.