Suffering, Solidarity & God-with-us

by susan on December 14, 2014

black candleWe are right in the middle of Advent and tonight, we will light a candle for suffering.
Suffering? Really?  What does that have to do with the joyous and predictable waiting for Christmas?

In Matthew 7 as Joseph learns his soon-to-be wife is pregnant (and not by him), I imagine there was some suffering.  Anger, disbelief, anxiety and fear must have filled his heart and mind.  On top of that, just when Joseph has decided to dismiss Mary, he is visited by an angel who tells him this child is the promised One. The child that his fiance is carrying will fulfill Isaiah’s words: “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Is. 7:14)  Immanuel, meaning “God with us” will change everything.

God will not stand far off and watch our suffering.  Paraphrasing John 1:8 from The Message translation of John 1:8, God is becoming flesh and blood, and moving into the neighborhood.

Since we are not just admirers, but rather followers of Christ, what does that mean for us? What does it mean for us to welcome and to follow Emmanuel, God with us?

The word solidarity comes to mind.  It’s been used a lot lately, especially in the response to the ongoing racism that plagues our country. Solidarity is an expression of unity and agreement. It’s finding a way to express our common restlessness for change, our common outrage at injustice.  It’s standing with others in their suffering.

Solidarity sounds like a very Emmanuel-ish thing to do.  

So, what does solidarity in the midst of so much suffering look like?

I think it looks like a bunch of things, because there is a bunch of suffering around and within us.  I also think it looks different for each of us.  As a community of faith though, here are a couple of ways we can practice following “God with us”:

  • Pray, listen and join in discussions, marches and vigils around #BlackLivesMatter.
  • White friends, intentionally place yourself in situations where you are in the racial minority.  Support Black-owned stores, shops and businesses. Worship with a predominantly African-American congregation.
  • Wear Black to tonight’s worship gathering.  It’s a sign of lament.  It’s a way for us to join our hearts with those who are suffering and a way to express our own heart-brokenness over injustice. It’s a way to fuel action.
  • For many people, there is not much to be excited about this time of year. For those missing family, lacking financial resources to join the gift-buying frenzy or battling a range of mental or physical struggles, the holidays can be tough.  Tonight, we will prepare “comfort bags” for those who are struggling through this season.

Tonight during dinner church at St. John’s (5 p.m., 1950 Silver St.), we will also set aside a time of prayer for all who are suffering. Along with expressing our own grief, we will listen for ways that we are invited to more fully enter another’s pain. We would love for you to join us as we continue seeking how to follow Emmanuel, the God who is with us as we face the beauty and pain that each day brings.

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