This is the month of joy.
And of hope.
And of new beginnings.
And yet... this has also been the season of deep trial and heavy grief for many friends whom we know and love. And it's been heartbreaking to see.
One young Mama sits by her little girl's bedside week in and week out while she receives chemo for leukemia. Another just lost her baby only a few weeks further into her pregnancy than I am. Still another grieves for one she's never yet been able to hold; there's a family who will have their first Christmas without their son who died at war; another who will have their first without their father and Grampy; and still others who fight for life and hope in a marriage that's imploding...
Heavy, eroding, gnawing grief that rips at the heart, and sucks out the soul is what these families are experiencing this Christmas...
So, how does one wake up to joy and grace and beauty - how does one celebrate this season of LIFE - when they can barely live life raw and gasp through another day?
I could never judge them - me with my easy life and my complaining days of messes and chaos, my family intact, and a healthy baby growing - one in which I was initially overwhelmed with, at that. Could you blame them? Could you judge - if you heard in their eyes them questioning God's goodness? His just-ness? The "why's" behind all of His reasoning - behind what He has "chosen" or what He has "allowed" depending on where your theology lies... I could never.
Especially during this season.
But then, I am reminded of that Mama back so many years ago - who from the very beginning knew heavy grief and sorrow that was hers alone to carry. Jesus was not born at a religious retreat or at a summer camp. She knew what His birth was all about. And He was born into our mess...with His own arrival being the cause of hundreds of deaths of baby boys as Herod sought to kill the new king. There were many Mamas acquainted with grief during that season way back then. Many, many Mamas who might have wondered if God was asleep at the wheel that day...
But, He wasn't.
And He is not today.
And we can be fearlessly blunt and wonder if He is good, and if He still reigns.
I'm pretty sure He's okay with our questions. He's not surprised by them, anyway...
And my heart reminds me that regardless of our silent screams and our whispered questions, behind that sadness that tries to wear a smile, and behind those shattered dreams...He is still close to us, even in times of tragedy.
Especially in times of tragedy...
And maybe the pockmarks of our lives, those losses that change us forever, and those times of trial where we can barely tame our grief...might one day become those places where we can someday see through the canvas of our momentary breath here on earth to the Forever that awaits us for all of Eternity. Maybe these events that will forever affect us here on Earth, will be what makes Heaven seem that much closer and something more easy to be grasped.
But until then - and while that answer is still too pat and simplistic...
We must hope and we'll crave and we'll wait.
And we'll grieve and we'll share in each other's joy, and we'll pick up each other's burdens.
We will gasp and we'll fall and we'll fail...and we'll walk alongside.
We will carry each other's sorrows.
When we can no longer breathe, we'll allow others to breathe for us.
And when we are strong - we'll share that strength with the broken.
Because that's what Christmas is.
God of Heaven come down - to our mess, to our grief, and to our sorrow.
To our hurt and to our pain.
To walk alongside us, and to get right into the thick of the messy.
Jesus, the God-Man.... oh so very acquainted with our own sorrows.
And that's what we need to be for others...
Maybe especially during this Holiday season.