It’s going to be a pretty dark Christmas for a lot of my friends this year. Between unemployment, death, and strained family relationships, things are pretty bleak. Caleb and I spend 10-15 minutes every morning and night in intercessory prayer when we’re not lifting up our own life circumstances. We all wish this wasn’t happening now. Being depressed at Christmastime is unacceptable.
Cultural Christmastime is “the most wonderful time of the year”. It’s the time when kitsch decor and plastic smiles reign. We’re all supposed to be joyful (by which we really mean happy) and whether you know that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” or Santa is your main dude, Christmas is meant to be LED bright. If you sit in the culturally Christian camp, being sad is a sin. If not, being sad makes you a Scrooge.
According to the church calendar, it’s not Christmastide yet. We’ve still a full week of Advent. It is absolutely acceptable to be depressed during Advent. Here, we remember the dark time before Christ came. God was silent for 400 years. The people of Israel were scattered and did not completely return. Those who did found themselves passed from regime to regime. I’m sure there were a lot of “How long oh Lord?”s. It’s no wonder that the Pharisaical movement (which sought to curry God’s favor by adding a string of requirements ensuring everyone would absolutely follow the Law) started during this time. God’s people needed to feel they had someway of proving themselves, of getting out of this mess. They’d waited long enough. What else did they need to do?
Advent is also when we look forward to Jesus’s second coming and the Restoration, which looks like a lot of “How long oh Lord?”s. How long will you let petty arguments drive a wedge between your people? How long will you let this conflict between races go on? How long will you let children be killed in Iraq? How long until you overthrow the death of the body, the mind, and the imagination?
It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to scream. It’s okay to whimper. It’s okay to stare blank-eyed, unable to speak. It’s okay to be depressed.
And sometimes, in the midst of his silence, God tips his hand.
We’re three nights into Hanukkah right now. In the wake of oppression and war, God provided so the light in the temple would not go out. He still cared for his people. Christ was coming.
I hope that this Advent, in the silence and the literal darkening of days, we all might see God tip his hand. He still cares for his people. Christ is coming. Amen