This Advent, We Mourn

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Our streets tremble these days. They quake with so much wrong and woe. How can we think of green garlands and twinkle lights, or send carolers out on the streets still stained with the blood of our sons?

Ashen mothers offer their call and response from one street corner to the next, a slow dirge then an anguished cry. They clutch graduation portraits to their chest. Stand in front of cameras testifying to the humanity of their children, the inhumane means of their death. They dress in black.

These women know the funeral liturgy by heart, by hearts broken time and time again as brothers, nephews, uncles and neighbors fall.

Emptied arms. Graves too full of brown bodies given no benefit, only doubt compounded by suspicion and a profiling that springs from the dark crevices of our skewed humanity.

It goes on and on like this, the woes echoing down broken roads marked with potholes and the residue of chalk outlines.

Sing with us the sad songs of loss. Keep your carols of joy for another neighborhood.

//

Our streets tremble these days. They quake with so much wrong and woe. How can we welcome worshippers, offer prayers or sing of holy nights when the streets to the Temple Mount are barricaded by our hostilities?

The highest city shut down her streets–some get in, some don’t–maybe this week no one enters the holy streets that beckon the faithful to come. Instead of pilgrimage there are protests, clashes and the noise of riots between the Palestinian and the Israeli.

More blood spilt; more bloodshed spreading to nearby neighborhoods of the West Bank, Hebron and Northern Jerusalem.

None are free to pray at the Western Wall or the al Aqsa Mosque; even the Via Dolorosa is tangled in our inability to share a sacred space. We throw rocks at one another and carry sharpened knives onto holy ground. Even at the foot of our holy places we don’t know how to walk back from war.

If not here, in God’s Holy City, then where can we all worship?

You call us to the holy mountain. You call it a house of prayer for all peoples–if not now, then at some time in a redeemed future You hold like a closely guarded secret. How can we come, Lord?

The streets meant to be a highway for the nations, for those drawn like a magnet to Your holy city, are crowded with our hate, our pride, our refusal to see in others Your likeness.

We want to come and bring our gifts to the high place, even Zion, but we’re on the wrong side of the roadblock.

//

Our streets tremble these days. They quake with so much wrong and woe. How can we celebrate so far from home, scattered across borders and unnamed streets?

We’ve been plucked from our beds at night, pulled by our hair then shoved into marauding trucks. These men move us down red dirt roads and across borders unknown to us and when they stop they play with us for sport. We are torn apart and throbbing with shame.

The men laugh. They move us like livestock. They sell us–used goods in their cruel trade.

The girls aren’t the only ones, you know. We live a nightmare, too. We get snatched on our way home from school, recruited into violence beyond our years. We barely can hold a No.2 pencil and now we’re told to hold a machine gun.

We are the haunted boys, the hunted ones. We live on the streets with no name, on the edges of a world no one cares about. We know that no one is coming to save us, either.

While you celebrate with your children, while you fill their stockings and wrap their gifts, remember us. At your Christmas vigil will you light a candle for the sons and daughters who inhabit the unnamed streets?

//

Lord, our streets are broken. We are broken.

Wrong and woe have become our Advent Song, because some days we see the streets in disrepair and can only sing the song we see before us.

So we sing of militarized streets with the acrid smell of tear gas lingering in the air, the sound of rubber bullets propelled in the night air toward our sons.

We sing of streets destined for welcome but today shut down by our hostile, enemy-hating ways.

We sing of nameless streets and children in peril and none to comfort them.

We cry out like the Hebrew mothers did long ago. We cry out because the pain won’t relent. We release a primal scream into the hot night.

Deliver us again, O Lord. Come… and ransom captive Israel.

This Advent we mourn in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appears.

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Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley is co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. She is also the author of Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World (Eerdmans).
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley Nikondeha

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