Yesterday was many different things to many different people.
Not only was it the first day of December and thus marking the Christmas Countdown (YESSSSSS!!!!), it was also World Aids Day and the anniversary of the Heath High School shooting in Paducah, Kentucky. Our nation lost a fighter pilot. A mother lost her son. And a family in Ferguson is spending their first December with an empty seat at their dinner table.
December 1st I was reminded of all the brokenness that plagues our world and how none of us are exempt. So today I ask the question... How do we live as wounded, hurting people and still choose joy during this Christmas season?
You see, we all are grieving something. Perhaps it is the loss of a loved one. Or maybe it's simply that your life isn't turning out how you planned. Or maybe your career isn't quite taking off no matter how many long hours you're putting in. Or maybe your fighting a disease, mental or physical or both. Or your marriage or your relationship with your kids is hurting. Maybe it's that you really want to be married but once again, you have to endure another holiday season answering awkward questions to your family about finding Mr. or Mrs. Right. Or you're having to face another month without that baby you've been trying to conceive or fighting to bring home through adoption.
The reality is we all live in a broken world and are carrying wounds from merely living in it. So how do we as believers live with our wounds, yet still choose joy during this Christmas season?
I have three suggestions, that are merely just that. They aren't rules or magic pills. But as the season has been a very sobering one for me, I'd like to share a few nuggets I've preached to myself on dark days.
1. Recognize that the cross changes everything.
I don't know about y'all, but this facade of having all my junk together gets pretty tiring. It's exhausting. One thing that I've really learned to love about our God these past few months is that I don't have to come to God, to the cross, perfect. I love that I get to acknowledge my imperfection; the cross doesn't hide our wounds, our grief, our shortcomings. Rather it acknowledges them and says, in spite of it all... I CHOOSE YOU. I COVER YOU. I WILL MAKE ALL THINGS NEW. Oh the cross, the wondrous cross. Where there is room for my grief, my mistakes, my hurt, my despair, my tears, and yours too.
Because of the cross, we can forgive others. (Col. 3: 13)
Because of the cross, we can have a new identity and are a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17, 1 Pet. 2:9)
Because of the cross, we can bless those who hurt us and pray for them. (Luke 6:27-28)
Because of the cross, we grieve the loss of our loved ones as people who have hope. (1 Thes. 4: 13-18)
Because of the cross, we can choose JOY in light of suffering. (James 1: 2-4)
And that changes everything.
2. Hope in the 2nd coming of Christ.
Up until 2008, I didn't really understand it when people would say that we were supposed to long for Christ's return. I was living a good life and although I had seen grief and brokenness in the world, it had never personally wrecked mine. I understood that as Christians, we should look forward to His return, but I didn't fully understand what it meant to HOPE for his return. Then in the fall of 2008 I experienced grief personally for the first time in my adult life. I had lost a close friend rather tragically and my world was rocked. And in the aftermath, I learned what it meant to HOPE for Christ's return.
Grief, dark skies, low points, they all expose how broken our world is and how great of need we all have for a greater Savior. We see depravity and the frailty of life, and we long for a redeemer. And what a redeemer we have.
Revelation 21: 3-7 - Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son."
This is what we have to hope for. This is how great of a redeemer we have. When He comes again He will dwell with us and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Every pain. LIFE instead of Death. That struggle with sin. GONE. Racial tension. Reconciled. For He will make all things new. THIS IS HOW WE LIVE WITH OUR EATHLY WOUNDS AND STILL HAVE JOY. We live, not waiting for time to heal, because it cannot. We live waiting for our Restorer. We live with our grief, knowing that when Christ returns He will make all things new.
And when He comes He will change everything.
3. Celebrate the manger.
Because we see how the cross changes everything and how Christ's return WILL change everything, we can rejoice this holiday season. We can choose joy because we know that the story about the baby is not just a folktale. We know that amidst the busy dinners, the Christmas parties, the gift buying, there's more to the season. We know that the baby we talk about, born in a lowly manger, is that same great Savior on the cross and the same great King who is Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End who will come again and finish what He started. He will redeem.
So amidst our pain, our own brokenness, we celebrate. Because within that manger, our redeemer was born.
And, again, that changes everything.
Today, I pray for those of you standing under grey skies this season. That amidst your grief, you will also know the joy lying in that manger.