I just read the news on Facebook: my very first voice instructor’s husband passed away after a long illness. They were madly in love, the Fitches. The kind of love that would probably embarrass some but delight others, and I watched from a distance, gazing at Facebook lovey-dovey pictures of them dancing at their daughter’s recent wedding. I’d think, When we’re in our 60s, I hope we’re still madly in love like that.
This a couple of days after the news of a friend’s mother passing away. What a sad time of year to lose your mama.
As I type, I’m watching my 1-year-old daughter eating lunch, discovering rogue blueberries and banana pieces in her bib pocket. What kind of heartbreak is in store for her? I wonder. It’s impossible imagining sadness in her life. I want to protect her from anything that would prevent her smile from lighting up the room. Now she is making a funny sound with a funny face and laughing hysterically. She is the delight of my life. How can I bear the thought of her hurting?
This morning, the babies and I read the 23rd Psalm in our Jesus Storybook Bible.The image of God being my shepherd and loving me so tenderly brought me to tears. I sent the pic to Kara who was facing a Scary Snort today—if anyone would understand these words, it would be Kara. Then I realized—again—that without trials and suffering, we can’t experience the depth of the Shepherd’s care. Have you ever noticed the people who are the most madly in love with Jesus and the most believing of his love for us are the people who have been hurt the most?I’ve shared how I got started on Christmas early this year. How it’s been a rough year and I needed the Hope of Advent, of the promise of Emmanuel. Please don’t misunderstand me—this is not an avoidance of pain or a masking. Putting my tree up early and baking extra treats and going crazy with taking pictures of my babies is not my trying to pretend like it hasn’t been a tough year. I am not putting the hurt of 2014 on hold until after the New Year. On the contrary, my celebrating Advent so ferociously is actually an embracing of the pain. I am engaging the hurt on such a level that says, I cannot move forward in this grief without Jesus, Emmanuel, the promise of his someday wiping away all of our tears. Comfort me, Lord, bring us peace, instill Hope in our hearts so we can put one foot in front of the other.
I’ve learned one thing that goes along with suffering is teaching our children to respond well to it. They are still babies and need to be protected from much, but allowing them to reach out to others who are hurting is in turn teaching them about the need for Jesus and the origin and reason for our Hope.I don’t want my children to think the Christmas story stops with the Wise Men visiting Baby Jesus. I don’t want them to think the point of Christmas is happiness instead of Hope. I don’t want them to be surprised by loss or pain. And I want them to know how to engage those who are hurting and how to respond well with Hope in Jesus.
So please, if you are hurting, do not be mistaken into thinking that Christmas is not a time for grief or pain. It is the perfect time. Just as the Prince of Peace was born a grisly, bloody birth into a broken world, so does our brokenness coexist with the promise of Hope as we live in the already but not yet. Christmas is the perfect time for crying out of our darkness to our King and asking for the comfort only he can bring.