I’m beginning to write this message from the table of a rented house in Tucson, where my family and I have come for the Thanksgiving week. We’re here to celebrate and give thanks with loved ones, of course, and we’re also here to inter the ashes of my father-in-law who died at the end of September.
The holidays can be hard, can’t they?
Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas heighten all of our emotions. Joy, excitement, grief, and longing all come to us strong and sure.The joy and excitement sustain us. The grief and longing exhaust us.
One of the most beautiful funerals at which I’ve ever officiated took place on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. The woman who died was Anna, and she had worked for years in our church’s nursery changing diapers and rocking babies to sleep while their moms and dads worshipped. At the back of the chapel sat rows of teenagers who’d been Anna’s babies, and they cried together as we sang, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” It all seemed so appropriate that we would be preparing to welcome the newborn baby King in just a few hours, who came to ransom our souls so that just these scenes of death and grief would someday no longer haunt us.
So, yes, friends, the holidays can be so hard if we’re missing the people we love. Do what you can to take care of yourselves, rest and sleep, and eat well. Most of all,remember that the promise of Christmas Day is just for you when you grieve the most.
When we’re strong and confident and wise, we don’t think we needGod. There’s no room for Him in our busy daily schedule. But, then, the real stuff of life confronts us: life and death, love and grief, brokenness and healing. Suddenly, our power vanishes, and in the space left behind, Jesus comes to fill us again.
This is the gift of the baby in the manger. Jesus helps us in our helplessness, becauseHe came to us in the very form of helplessness, to let us know that His power is sufficient to save us and heal us and make us whole again. This is very good news indeed.
“Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel,” sing the words of the song, and Emmanuel—Jesus—comes to us, too.