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Fall Semester of 2020 is over.

What a semester. College ministry is full of extreme ups and downs. It comes with the territory, but considering all that 2020 brought, the highs and lows seemed to be more extreme. One thing mounted on the other with COVID-19, racial tension, and an election year.

This has been the roughest year for college ministers that I’ve ever witnessed. More than ever I’ve seen leaders at a loss to know what to do next. Some students seem to be falling away, whether that’s from in person gatherings or zoom meetings. This is happening in a lot of churches, not just yours, and it’s hard.

But fall is over and Christmas is here. Personally I’ve been longing for Christmas, but to be honest, Christmas is weird this year. This is supposed to be a joyous time of year, but COVID cases are rising and it’s having its effect. We can’t gather like we want to, not as a church or as a family, and that stinks. It’s not what we want it to be.

During this season that is supposed to be marked with joy and hope, it might be better to lament. This year we’ve made unwanted friends with grief and sorrow and perhaps you need to express that. Lament because things didn’t work out like you wanted. Lament because maybe things will never be back to your normal. Lament because you feel hopeless and maybe even without purpose in your ministry right now. Lamenting doesn’t sound fun. However, if you don’t, you’ll carry the grief and sorrow of 2020 into 2021. You’ll grow cynical, bitter, and be unwilling to forgive others and maybe even God. You may even decide that ministry isn’t worth it and get out.

In a year that seemed to supply more pruning than fruit bearing, there is hope.

Christmas does remind us of that. Israel, a weary nation, longing for liberation, found it two thousand years ago, when Mary conceived and gave birth to Jesus. Jesus came to liberate Israel not from the Romans or their circumstances, but from the power of darkness.

Jesus came and put himself in our shoes and experienced the grief and sorrow of life. Isaiah tells us he was a man of many sorrows (Isa. 53:3). He knows what it’s like to be sorrowful. He knows what it’s like to lament. In a year that seems hopeless, maybe the road to hope is through lamenting?

I’ve always been a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. One of my all-time favorite players is Daryl “Moose” Johnston. He played fullback during the dynasty era of the 90’s. He was the unsung hero, doing the dirty work to pave the way by blocking for Emmitt Smith, who became the NFL’s all time leading rusher. You would never hear much about Moose, because Emmitt was the star. But in order for Emmitt to be the star, he needed Moose to pave the way.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we love hope, don’t we? Hope is the star of Christmas. But perhaps this year we need lamenting to pave the way for hope. Lamenting is not pretty, and is often the unsung hero, but perhap after we lament, we see our suffering and sorrowful Savior standing there bringing us hope for our new year.

This Christmas reminds us there is hope and it will not be stopped, but our road to get there might look a little different this year.

 “That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5, CSB)