For When Christmas is Hard

A ‘Blue Christmas’ Service Sermon

A woman – no, a girl, a teenage girl – is miles and miles from home, away from her cousin and her mother and with only her husband for company- and he is really just a stranger to her.

The pains in her womb are tightening, her breathing is sharp. No one has room for her, for the burden she carries in her belly, this weight that will bring her to knees. At last, someone takes pity on her, and her husband, and their mule, and they are given the barn – where her crying won’t disturb anyone else.

For a season where we are expected to don our twinkliest lights, our brightest smiles, our easy assurances that time with family is the most wonderful time of the year – for a season that asks for tidy tidings, Christmas certainly had a rude beginning. A painful beginning.

There is a lot that is shocking about God deciding to clothe Godself in human flesh, to be born through a teenage girl. But perhaps most shocking of all is that God was willing to become human, and so to die. Death is the one human guarantee- not everyone even gets to be born, as those who grieve miscarriages and stillbirths know too well.

Make no mistake, Jesus came to live, to live with us – Jesus came so much to live that not even death could overcome God. Our God loves us so much that God was willing to die. From the moment the angel told Mary she would bear Emmanuel, God was willing to die.

We who have gathered here know death. We have gathered here to acknowledge that there are people missing. For some, death came as an old friend, but even old friends can leave deep wounds. For some, death came quickly and unexpectedly, and maybe our grief rises at the smallest things – an ornament, a song, a memory…

For some of us, our grief may not be for one whom we have lost but for the love we long for.

For families that have forsaken us.

For loved ones who are sick, in body, or mind, or spirit.

For loved ones who do not love us well.

For when we wish there was just a loved one to be there.

Christmastime can be especially tough. But here is the thing: God doesn’t ask us to be happy at Christmas. I don’t think God would have been born through a teenage girl in a barn if God really cared about appearances in that way.

Instead, Jesus came to say: “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens.”

“Come,” Jesus says, “and give me your sadness, your anger, your fear. Come, and give me everything that is weighing you down. Let me hold it. Let me hold you.”

“My yoke is easy,” Jesus says, “and my burden is light.”

It may not always feel that way. Having faith in Jesus, having faith that we will see our loved ones again – and we will, we will see them again – but having that faith can be hard. And that’s okay. This is why we gather, to be reminded of the family to whom we belong – the Body of Christ, the people in these pews with you, people spanning the globe, people going back centuries, who each in their own time and own way came to God because the burden was heavy, and the yoke was too difficult.

Jesus walked on earth, bled on earth, wept on earth, healed people on earth, Jesus even lost family on earth –his cousin, John.

Even God knows the pain of losing loved ones, and I think God knows that more deeply than anything else because God loves us so much, and so desired us to be in right relationship with God, that God came to be with us on earth.

God loves us with reckless abandon. That is the real miracle of Christmas – that God, in God’s heartbreak and desire to be with us, God’s family, the people God made for Godself – God came to be with us, and is with us still.

God is with you still.

 


 

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