expressions of the weight of today

We used to offer,
each Advent season,
a service of griefs and hopes—
to acknowledge how hard a time of year it is for so many—
to try and name some of the ways it’s so hard.

It was sparsely attended,
and we eventually decided it was not worth what it took to pull it off.
This year, in our November deacons’ meeting,
talking about the history of that service—
the truth of the intent behind it,
one of our deacons wondered what it would be like,
to include an element of that in a regular Sunday morning worship.

So was born a new structure for our Advent/Christmas worship—
breaking each Sunday morning service down into seven(!) parts:
i. within the separate, community gathering;
ii. within the gathered community, waiting;
iii. within the waiting, hope;
iv. within the hope, fear and grief;
v. within the fear and grief, assurance;
vi. within the assurance, celebrating;
vii. within it all, fulfillment.

Each Sunday, during the “within the hope, grief and fear” time,
we included a Responsive Expression of the Weight of Today
which was then directly followed by a pastoral prayer.

Hear our expressions of burden:

I.
Dear friends and family members have died.
There is emptiness where once was fullness.
Dear friends and family members are sick.
What was strong is all too frail.
The stress is high.
The load is heavy.
The pace is deadly.
The news is terrifying.
The injustice systemic.
The violence pandemic.
The greed oppressive.
The denial mind-numbing.
The justifications short-sighted.
The priorities messed up.
The load is heavy.
The stress is high.

II.
Amidst the Christmas music on the radio,
the lights in windows, on trees, in yards, on houses,
the festive decorations,
all the expectation,
the emphasis on family and friends,
it’s such a lonely, lonely season for many—
made all the more lonely
by all those very things
so many others enjoy.
Grief triggers abound.

III.
Heavy the weight we bear.
Different for us all, of course—
different stresses and griefs,
pains and shames—
different reasons for tears and fears,
but heavy the weight we all bear—
the deep weariness we all know
accumulating through our living
draining us of life.

IV.
When our world and our culture
undermine and contradict
so much of what we understand Christmas to be most about
(often in the very name of Christianity—
I’m not talking about any of that war on Christmas stuff!),
it’s hard.
When we want,
more desperately than we know—
when we want more than anyone can give us—
setting each well meaning gift up for disappointment—
when we ask “what if” more than we celebrate “what is”,
it’s hard.
When empty places at Christmas events
remind us of loved ones no longer with us—
when we sit with loved ones
present only in bodies marking otherwise empty places
where the fullness of loved ones once were—
when what was and is no more
is as or more significant to our well-being
than what is,
it’s hard.

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One thought on “expressions of the weight of today

  1. The responsive expressions of the weight of today have been such a meaningful part of advent worship. I recently learned about what is called ambiguous loss and grief. This is loss experienced by someone when a loved one is physically present but emotionally absent, as in dementia, or when a loved one is physically absent but emotionally present, as in situations of kidnapping, disasters, war, etc. and the status is unknown. Ambiguous grief can be hard to name, complicated, confusing, prolonged, and lead to frozen grief, being stuck in a state of grief with no way to closure. It is important to name the ambiguous loss and grief. I wonder if the heavy weight we each may bear can be ambiguous weight…unclear, not easily described, recognized or understood. I believe so, and therefore so important to name. The expressions of burden here help do that for us, naming the “different stresses and griefs, pains and shames” and acknowledging that it’s hard. Thank you John.

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