Though Christmas and New Years likely seem long past, as regular life has picked up it’s pace; the positive and enjoyable, as well as the difficult experiences from Christmas and New Years still reach into the present moment as the New Year begins, which is why I decided to post this blog now.
The gospels describe a whirlwind of excitement and joy, filled with accounts of angelic visitations to Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah. A spectacular group of angels would also appear to shepherds declaring the wondrous news of the birth of Jesus, whose very name means God with us. Throughout the centuries songs and sermons have been written celebrating the momentous arrival of Jesus, where God entered into our desperate world to rescue us with his love. What I noticed; however, was another side to the story that has often not been given much attention in the midst of the joy and celebration.
Jesus also came in the midst of great pain and loss. The ruler at the time felt threatened by the arrival of Jesus, and he gave orders for the murder of all the young boys in the area, as the gospel of Matthew describes. In the midst of the celebration described in the gospels, there would have also been countless families in immense despair and confusion as they grieved the loss of their sons. Year after year this time would be marked by Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and many others with feelings of joy and thankfulness; and yet there would be countless families who would also mark this time with painful remembrances of loss, grief, and despair, their wounds becoming fresh again.
You see, each of our experiences, whether joyful or painful, is found within the gospel Christmas story. Some may have enjoyed Christmas and New Years surrounded by friends and family. This time for many was likely filled with laughter as new memories were created, and perhaps where past memories were remembered.
However, for others it is the painful side of the Christmas story that is more relatable. Christmas and the holidays was only another reminder of an existing experience of loneliness and disconnection. Maybe this time was a fresh reminder of painful losses, losing a husband, a wife, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, a father, a mother, or a friend. Maybe you have lost dreams, a job, or even lost direction and hope. Losses seem to come in so many ways. Maybe the loss is fresh; perhaps the loss grows older and is relived year after year. The holidays have a cruel and harsh ability to bring our eyes back to the great vacuum left by the loss, and the emptiness and barrenness that is left behind.
If you find yourself struggling with the pain, despair, and the ache of loss this year, your story and your experience is truly part of the Christmas story, and therefore your pain, loneliness, disconnection, loss, and grief matter and is important. Your experience, your story, your tears and your despair is close to Father God’s heart, as was the experience of all those who lost their sons that first Christmas night.
~ A cry was heard in Ramah - weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead. ~ Matthew 2:18