Walking Towards Sunday: Grief and Suffering at Christmas

Bouguerau, "The First Mourning" 1888.

Bouguerau, “The First Mourning” 1888.

Job 5:7 ”  but man is born to trouble
as the sparks fly upward…”

On the outside of things, suffering, grief, and Christmas don’t seem to go together. But when one really thinks about it, Christmas holds its truest comfort for the hurting. Christmas in all its glory and in its deepest meaning is for the suffering individual and for the soul in despair about his sin or the sin of others. It is for those who are experiencing the fallenness of this world firsthand–for those who need answers and for those who need hope.

Sickness, family troubles,  or the loss of a loved one changes the way we celebrate Christmas and the sadness we feel is real and valid.   We miss the child or spouse who should be seated at the table, we miss conversation with an aged grandparent whose mind is clouded by dementia, we miss the strength to play after-dinner football because the chemotherapy wiped out our energy. And it’s ok be sad. Even so, the message of Christmas remains the same and can comfort us on the slow road to healing if we are willing.

For those of us struggling in such ways, Christmas is for us. It is for us because, at Christmas, we remember that God became incarnate, took on flesh and joined humanity in a stable amid the mucky mess of a world caused by our sin. God took on real human form to take on real human problems.  Christianity is not a cliche, feel-good, band-aid-type weak attempt to make emotionally needy people feel better about the world. It is a solid, real answer to mankind’s deepest griefs and our worst problems. By His power and because of His incarnation and subsequent sacrifice for our sins through His death on the cross, consider all that He accomplished:

  • the forgiveness of our sins
  • an eternal, joyful, productive life for those who want to follow Him and be with Him forever
  • eventual healing from all sickness
  • the banishment of evil before the renewal of this earth
  • His support, love, and guidance for the remainder of our earthly days, so that this life will be abundant as well
  • additional family members in other Christians (because big families are awesome!)

So, if you are suffering or grieving, allow yourself to feel it. But also, surround yourself with the great symphony of Scripture whose music circles around the moment in time when God took on human flesh. Christmas is God’s magnum opus.

An absolutely great place to start is to listen to traditional Christmas music. Pandora has a radio station titled “Christmas Carol Radio”. Christmas carols can bring so much joy and remind us of the true purpose for celebrating Christmas. I had the awesome chance to attend a Messiah sing-a-long last week and it was so comforting. Handel’s work starts in Isaiah and ends in Revelation. You could you-tube it, get a hot cup of tea or cocoa, and let God’s mighty story of your redemption surround you this Christmas season.

Not suprisingly, the first words of the Messiah are:

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. . .” Isaiah 40:1-3

P.S. Just to make it easy for you, here’s a link to listen.  Here’s another link for the lyrics.

Merry Christmas to you all,

Elizabeth

 

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