You can’t help but notice it if you pay attention. When we stop talking long enough to listen and look up from our phones long enough to observe, we see it on people’s faces, we hear it in the way they talk, we can even feel it in the way they breathe. People are tired; but more than that. We’ve rushed past tired and exhausted and made our way to full-blown weariness.
We can sing knowingly the Old Gospel Line – I am tired, I am weary I am worn – because we know it. As we notice the clerk in the grocery story line or the neighbor in the pew or the colleague just trying to hold it all together, we know this is true. We see it in these strangers, because it would be too painful to see it in ourselves. But we know it there too.
We know it all too well – what it is like when everything comes hurdling towards you and everything you have tried to keep hidden and beneath the surface finally breaks through. We know what it is like when all the stuff we have to do and all the emotions we have been feeling get the best of us and we just can’t hold it down anymore.
We know this weariness.
We are weary with anxiety that what we have hoped for might never come, weary from sensing that the dreams God has put on our hearts might actually be an impossible vocation. We are weary of being unable to hold up our end of the bargain and live up to our responsibilities, wanting desperately to be there for everyone we care about while knowing deep down that if something doesn’t change there is no way we are going to make it. We are weary from seeing our friends and our loved ones hurt and feeling completely powerless to do a single thing about it.
We are weary of the news, how weary we are of and from the news, weary from the words and images and sounds that serve as a never ending cacophony of bad news. And those images – we are so weary of those images – another attack, another shooting, another leader who isn’t who we thought they would be or who we hoped they would become. We are weary, most of all I think, of how we talk to one another, or how we talk past each other and how we talk about each other. We are weary because we are so exhausted and overwhelmed by the way the latest crisis of the day is no longer an event that radically upends someone’s life, but instead is just another opportunity to be outraged and a new excuse to rip someone apart.
We know where it really counts that the status quo won’t cut it, that there is a wide gulf between the way things are and the way we need them to be. What we need more than anything else is an interruption from the chaos and way out of our weariness, even if we can’t see how or where it will come from.
This is the message of this Advent, this watching and waiting that we are doing – watching for signs of light and waiting for a new way despite the piles of evidence that scream otherwise.
In the midst of all this weariness and hurt and pain and anguish and fear and dread we do what we always have done – we watch and we wait for the Light of All People. We watch and we hope in expectation for something new that comes into a world where not everyone has a place to stay and in the midst of a story that painfully reminds us of the meaning of Holy Innocents. We wait and we pray for Good News of Great Joy even, and especially, as our vision to see God in every person still seems horribly dimmed, as our friends still get sick, as our parents still decline, as our neighbors still fear for their lives and as the threats and the forces and the powers and the principalities still rage on. In the midst of it all, we watch and we pray and we hope and we wait.
We wait in hope for Christmas because Christmas is the interruption we desperately need. That’s what this day is. Christmas, that God became like us for us – comes as the Great Interruption we had hoped for even before we knew to hope for it. Christmas comes to shatter the awfulness and brokenness of what is and to lead us to imagine and participate in the beautiful and holy of what now can be.
This baby we are waiting for again comes to interrupt the exhaustion of first-time parents wondering if they can be everything this precious gift needs them to be. The Prince of Peace comes to interpret our unceasing thirst for vengeance. The Word of God comes to give us the words we need to be people who see God in every person, even and especially when that gets hard. The Teacher who said my burden is light comes to interrupt our despair and depression to remind us that despite it all hope isn’t lost, because hope never fails.
And so we wait. With tired faces, full calendars, and short fuses that spring from weary and burdened souls, we wait. We keep watching and we keep praying and most of all we keep waiting – for we know that into the weariness of our burdened lives Christmas is coming with the force of a Great Interruption.