Tuesday, December 13, 2011


A few weeks ago I had a miscarriage. Not as awful as it sounds; I've been prepared for some time with the knowledge that I cannot bear children – I did my grieving long ago.

I mention it only because it did something very strange to me. It reminded me of the pain of hope. Advent hope is an oft spoken of theme; we talk of God’s people waiting for God’s promises to come true; we talk of a people waiting with expectation and hope for the time when their suffering would cease; we talk about Elizabeth and Zechariah, who were given a new hope for a child, long after they thought it was possible; we talk of the people walking in darkness who saw a great light. We talk of this wondrous feeling of hope that gets us through the dark and difficult days. Because at the end of all this waiting, there is a baby.

My own experience caused me to stop, and question for a moment. What about those for whom there isn’t a baby at the end of all the waiting? What about those waiting for that which will never come? What about those whose wait will end in bitter disappointment? Because it’s true, isn’t it, that as we celebrate the joy of Christmas, we often gloss over the bittersweet truth. The truth that for some, the lights will be taken down, the tree packed away and the wrapping recycled, and all that will be left is emptiness. The truth that the birth of Christ is a story not without tragedy, for as the baby was born, so a plot was being made to kill all the boys in Bethlehem under the age of two.

During Advent I cannot hide from the fact that at the end of my wait, there will never be a baby. Not for me. And so I think perhaps, as we work up to the joy of Christmas, I want to suggest that we don’t forget that sometimes hope is painful, hope leads to disappointment, and un-fulfilment. And perhaps sometimes it’s okay to voice that.


David said...

Rowena, you have shone a light on something that is all too real and all too often unspoken.

As those who sometimes find ourselves accompanying people for whom the good news they crave may not materialise, we need to choose our words carefully and not opt for dripping sentimentalism or undue optimism. Over the years CS Lewis's "The Problem of Pain" or Nigel Wrights's "The Fair Face of Evil" have been really helpful to me in this regard.

From time to time my preaching returns to the theme of a 'theology of heaven' though I'm acutely aware we can be embarrassed about this. Belief in God can just about be tolerated in today's society, but as C S Lewis observed, talk of heaven can leave us afraid of the jeer "pie in the sky!"

But in the end, without heaven our faith makes little sense. So for me, the challenge is always how to hold out a vision of heaven as the ultimate good news, without suggesting that this is the antidote to genuine struggle, heartache, hurt and aching disappointment. No easy answers. But then you know that well. David K

Catriona said...

Rowena, that's a powerful and important post, tenderly and hopefully exrpessed, thank you so much for risking the sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful, honest and hopeful reflection.