About 20 years ago, my pastor and mentor used the phrase “the accumulated weight of disappointments” during a sermon. It’s been 20 years, but I’ve never forgotten that phrase or how he explained it. Each day, week, month, and year brings both new and recurring disappointments. Family, work, marriage, relationships, income, expenses, etc., are all fraught with difficulties, brokenness, and disappointments. It’s unavoidable. Each of those individual incidents adds a little pebble to the load we already carry from prior disappointments. The accumulated weight of disappointments can be a significant burden.
With Christmas coming, maybe it feels strange to be talking about the accumulated weight of disappointments! Isn’t this meant to be a happy time!? Yes, the historic season of Advent waiting and anticipation isn’t meant to be miserable or depressing. Also, facing and considering our disappointments enables us to more fully enter into the joy of Christmas and our anticipation of Jesus’ second Advent.
This Sunday, the last Sunday in Advent, Zechariah and Elizabeth are our Servants of Advent Longing. They were a couple who knew the weight of disappointment. Mainly:
- Zechariah was a priest. God has been silent for 400 years, and his people have been suffering under Roman rule. There has been no Word from God through a prophet for a LONG TIME. Can you imagine the feeling of futility you’d have if you were a priest in that context?
- Zechariah and Elizabeth were not able to have children. Then, as now, infertility was a multifaceted and painful, ongoing disappointment. Month after month, to be disappointed in your own body, your spouse’s body, and the God who made you . . . Those are rocks that accumulate heavily.
Yet, God breaks in! He speaks, and declares that they will conceive a child. Through his most famous messenger, God meets with and speaks directly to Zechariah. After 400 years of silence and many marital years of unfulfilled longing, God reaches to cut the burden of disappointment from Zechariah’s back.
As you prepare to worship God this Advent, take some time to read the account in Luke 1:5-25 & 57-75. Notice how Zechariah responds. Can you identify with him? Reflect also on your own accumulated weight of disappointment. How has it diminished your view of God, your ability to hear his Words, or your engagement in worship? To what degree has it made you withdraw from others or from the role he created you to play? As you do that, ask God for faith to believe that he will meet you, speak to you, and replace your mourning with dancing. After all, Advent is a season of anticipation and celebration.