I don’t know about you, but the sense of “waiting” this Advent season is feeling much more palpable than in past years. I have certainly had seasons when reflecting back over the year increased my sense of longing for our awaited King to return. But this year, it is not only the reflection that feels heavy but the present moment.
The other day as I sat at my computer listening to Christmas music, my husband turned on the news which played in the background. The voices formed a dichotomy that was hard to ignore as the San Bernardino shooting unfolded in the other room.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Confirmed at least 14 dead in the latest mass shooting, today in San Bernardino, Calif.
And ransom captive Israel
This scene unfolding before us is taking place at an agency that supports people with developmental disabilities.
That mourns in lonely exile here
You are seeing pictures here of the wounded; those who have escaped or were evacuated from the building.
Until the Son of God appear
We believe there are two or three shooters. We are still waiting for more information to confirm, but officers do believe this was not just one shooter.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Wait! Wait! We believe this is the car of the shooter or shooters. They seem to be a in a shootout with police!
Shall come to thee, oh Israel
Just in recent days we have been rocked by the murder of Laquan McDonald and been outraged by the level of corruption trying to hide it. We experienced back-to-back mass shootings, having only recently mourned attacks around the world. Just yesterday I learned of the death of Mario Woods and can’t quite express the depth of my anger at the police chief’s explanation of why it’s justified.
And my soul keeps singing: O come, o come, Emmanuel.
The truth is I want to turn off the news. I want to turn away from pain and death. I want to turn up the music and tune out the mess. I want to wait without the heaviness, to acknowledge Advent only with cheer. And yet I am reminded of the way Christ stepped into the world — hated and scorned. Reminded of the immense injustice Christ’s very body suffered. Reminded of the loneliness, the weeping, the betrayal Christ experienced. Reminded of the many ways Christ reached toward death, toward sickness, toward the demons.
And I remember that Emmanuel, who came to take away the sin of the world, is coming again.
When I was just a kid in elementary school, I remember being warned that those who aren’t Christian would accuse me of believing in Christianity only because I was weak, because I needed a crutch in life. I don’t remember what remedy or response was handed to us; I can only recall the warning. The older I get, the more I realize that statement is of no offense to me. I am weak. My body is exhausted. My mind is overwhelmed. My spirit is too often crushed, limping through each day. My passion flares up, driving me forward, but isn’t sustainable as raging fire. I am tender and sensitive, able to be hurt. I am incapable of carrying the full weight of the news. I hold it for as long as I can, and then I must let it go. I need the force of Love in my life, need to believe in hope. This is no shame to me. I am not just a sinner in need of a Savior, I am a human in need of a better future.
And so this Advent season, I am embracing my weakness. I am lighting candles as a symbolic way of letting the Light hold onto the grief, the pain, the death when I cannot bear it. As I wait, I will work as Love compels me, knowing it is not my work that will save the world. Emmanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel.
Austin Channing Brown is a Resident Director and Multicultural Liaison for Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.) by day and a writer by night. She is passionate about the work of racial justice and reconciliation, especially as modeled and led by women. This first appeared on her blog, austinchanning.com.
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