This Christmas the intensity of life has left me breathless. I love Christmas. Often the season feels like a respite from the weariness of life. The broken, ugly parts of the year are folded away and tucked into the closet until the tree comes down and White Christmas has been watched fifteen times!
But this year I just can’t get rid of life’s reality. My legs are shaky from the journey. Not only from my own loss, but also from yours. Daily the news gives us much to scoff, and to dread. Closer to home, church friends are struggling with cancer diagnosis and illness, for themselves or their children.
I could sit and cry for a hundred years. Part of me feels guilty to think that way at Christmas. The other part of me thinks it would be a terrible relief! In those moments I cling to Jesus promise, even invitation, in the beatitudes; “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
I’ve been reading A Christmas Carol, as I often do at Christmas. I find the parallels between our two societies, separated by almost 200 years, is uncanny. I’m reminded there is nothing new, the same drama is replayed in generation after generation. Truth be told I wonder if I’ve found the secret in its pages. We can only celebrate after we’ve first grieved.
Scrooge learned this lesson from the ghosts and tiny Tim. He learned to grieve his own mistakes, to grieve injustice, to hurt for those in need. Only then could the gift of goodwill, the beauty of a Savior, seem sweet to him. Only when he recognized the need could he participate in the solution. He learned that mankind is tied together. A living heart cannot see the suffering of its fellow man and remain unmoved.
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” Marley’s warning to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
So what should we grieve? The want and despair of life, of our friends, of our enemies. We grieve injustice, and our own impotence, and too often our indifference. That grief puts us in a place of empathy with others, and gratitude to the One who has lit our hearts with goodwill in the darkness of ignorance and want. We celebrate our own redemption and participate in the reclaiming of mankind for love’s sake.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelations 21:4
Mourning is the order of things now. It’s part of the business of life. But it won’t be when the old earth is destroyed and a new order is put in place. Our grieving for what could have been, for what’s been lost, is only bearable when we realize the new order is coming.
This Christmas I mourn for me, but I also mourn for you. I mourn for children in poverty. I mourn for man’s foolishness that pits one group against another and speaks harshly of their fellow man, giving way to fear instead of courageous love. I mourn for the ignorance, and greed, and scarcity at work in the world. I grieve for the prevalence of disease. I grieve because more often than we want to admit we’re a part of it all. I grieve because I’m a part of the brokenness, often feeding fear and self instead of love.
This Christmas it seems appropriate to grieve. And as I grieve I pray. I pray for me and I pray for you. I pray with hope that the old order will pass away and the new order of things will bring relief. And I pray that in the meantime you and I will be people of goodwill, and that our sweet Savior will help us to endure!
I pray we will emulate the Child of Bethlehem who became one of us. His very presence an act of solidarity, stating, “I am you.” Can we do less?
“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13