- Tuesday, December 25, 2012
I read over the insides of the cards, hunting for the right phrasing and sentiments. There was a ten pack with suitable words, so I plopped the cards in my shopping cart. I was buying sympathy cards when I wished I was purchasing some light and happy Christmas greetings.
Too many funerals in too short of a time. After the most recent funeral service let out, my husband told me about the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. I’d never heard of the town, didn’t know the individuals involved, but like everyone else around the country, felt a shot rip through my own heart as well. Unthinkable. Utterly unable to wrap my head around the reality of such darkness. Less than a week beforehand I had attended a funeral in remembrance of a childhood church friend who’d passed away in a horrible, unimaginable sort of way. Then there’d been the mall shooting. The personal and publicly shared grief was too great for words. Too big for a card. Left a bigger hole than any church-planned meal rotations could fill.
My heart was heavy with brokenness for so many--those who were near and dear along those whom I never even met. Sleep was hard to find under piled up grief and the usual Christmas to-do list. There was deep sadness and at the same time a pressing in my mind of all the presents yet to wrap, the still un-mailed Christmas cards, the Christmas dinner to plan and prepare, the family and friends who I needed to see, along with extra work and ministry tasks. I sat praying by the soft twinkle of the Christmas lights. Such an awful mix of “plastic” and searing pain. The plastic being all the glitter and ephemeral joys and pressures of the season. The pain being the recent griefs and losses. As I prayed over the sadness and stresses on my heart, the Lord reminded me of a truth I don’t often like to set my mind on concerning His version of Christmas.
Christmas was anything but “plastic” for Jesus. He was born in one of the messiest places on earth--a barn--without the least bit of royal glitter to adorn His arrival. As a toddler, His family had to run and hide because of a crazy ruler who wanted Him dead. Thousands of innocent babies were slaughtered in Herod’s desperate attempt to silence the rumors of possibility that a fore-told King had been born in Bethlehem. His ministry was filled with griefs and struggles as those around Him rejected and misunderstood His purpose. And His ultimate mission, to be a risen sacrifice to cover our guilt and give us resurrection life, would first require His very life blood. No, Jesus’ coming was anything but “twinkling,” “shiny,” “jolly,” or “merry.” It was hard, lonely, humble, costly, and the most significant series of events this world has ever known.
In Isaiah’s prophesy concerning the coming Messiah, Jesus is described as:
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief...Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried... (Isaiah 53:3-4 NAS).
It’s noteworthy that part of Jesus’ mission was prophesied as being so intertwined with grief. While on this dusty sod, Jesus cried. He wept at the funeral of a dear friend (John 11:35) and He cried over the rejection of His people (Luke 19:41). Something tells me, there were probably a number of unrecorded tears as well.
Tears are more than OK at Christmas, sometimes they’re the only fitting response to this world. If even our Lord cried at losses and grief, how could we expect not to?
If you are mourning this Christmas, it is my prayer that you find comfort in the Lord, and also that, in the midst of the sadness you would know and believe that every tear God has noticed and collected (Psalm 56:8), and that you are not alone in your grief. Jesus came to carry our griefs and share the burden of sorrows that come in this life.
Weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
(Psalm 30:5 NIV)
May your morning come quickly! But until then, may you find God’s presence intimately near your heart and circumstance.
April Motl is a pastor’s wife who serves along side her husband, Eric, at their church in Southern California. For more information about their ministry visit www.MotlMinistries.com. You can also follow their ministry on facebook, twitter and April’s crosswalk blog.
Publication date: December 25, 2012
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