This summer, my husband and I found ourselves lost in the Santa Cruz mountains on a trail ride. We easily followed a few trail signs at the outset, but about halfway through our 20-mile ride, we ventured down an unmarked road and found ourselves trapped on a narrow, washed-out deer trail. After an hour of bushwhacking and two crashes, we made it back to the coast, our best landmark, as daylight receded.
The hardest part of this trek was the uncertainty and fear I felt during the middle of the ride. There’s a German word for this: zwischenstät, or “in-between place.” This aptly describes not just this harrowing bike ride but the past eight months of 2020, months filled with the loss of community, numerous life transitions, and the collective grief of our global pandemic.
Grief, loss, and transition—hallmarks of 2020 for many of us— serve as subtle reminders that Christ did not come in power and strength for the healthy, but in meekness and humility for the sick, the oppressed, and those in the in-between places. Jesus’ coming marked a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy: “The people who live in darkness have seen a great light, and for those living in the shadowland of death, light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16; HCSB).
Christ’s birth set in motion a significant, world-altering transition, for the kingdom, for Mary and Joseph, for the expectations of the faithful, and for the oppressed. Jesus came unassumingly, in a way so unexpected, he was missed by many. Similarly, he comes to us, often not with a shiny bow under the tree, but in the darkest, most painful corners of our hearts: in our grief. The gift for us this Advent is His willingness to give us hope and healing in our grief.
What griefs do you carry? What have you lost? Write these down in some form, perhaps in a journal or on small slips of paper. Bring your grief and losses to him. Ask him to meet you in your grief. Lord, what is your invitation here? Then bury it. The symbolism of burial is powerful for our grief, too. As you bring each grief before God, consider either burying or burning the strips of paper as a way to mark a release and a welcome to God’s healing and hope.
“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance” (John 10:10; AMP).