A different Christmas
One day to go.
Christmas Eve is typically a day of last minute details in our home. Running out for that one last ingredient or gift (or five, or the whole list, depending on the year). Christmas music flows through the house. The tree remains lit throughout the day. The whole family is home, with no commitments elsewhere. We laugh and bake and eat and go to church and wrap presents and reminisce and enjoy life, love, and anticipation of all the next 24 to 48 hours will bring.
This year blows in with a little more heaviness, and as I grapple with my own altered reverie, I am reminded of many friends, family, and other loved ones that are wrestling with the disappointments swirling around this year. Many have found plans disrupted due to Covid, ongoing medical treatments, or an unexpected hospital stay that has caused hospital doors to stand as a blatant hurdle to family time. In some homes a loved one's place is permanently empty this year for the first time. Others in our country have completely lost their home and everything in it during recent storms. And, in some families, the continually changing seasons of life are demanding uncomfortable alterations to long-held Christmas traditions and expectations.
Unexpectedly, I found solace in a quick read of Lamentations today and the insight in the Bible Project's overview video on the book:
I did not expect to relate so closely to these heart-wrenching poems that are brutally honest as they cry out to God. The video creators point out that these poems are a form of protest (drawing attention from both people and God), a place to process emotion, and give voice to their confusion as they wrestle with the hard questions of their situation, actually giving purpose to suffering (check out from 1:00-1:42, if not the whole video).
In the midst of grief and disappointment, the author of Lamentations sees a beautiful glimmer of hope that he would not have been seeking so desperately had it not been for the destruction and judgment all around.
"But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Lamentations 3:21-24 ESV
The video closes with these comforting words, ". . . This very important book shows us how lament and prayer and grief are a crucial part of the journey of faith of God's people in a broken world."
Thankfully, God is ready for my questions and tears and brokenness. That doesn't mean everything will be restored by tomorrow, but He can carry me through the disappointment. My lament may be too personal to share with many, but thankfully it will end with the reassurance that I do not walk through it alone.
While my lament might cry its way through the harsh words absorbed, the separation created by uncontrollable circumstances, and the disrupted traditions, I will let it exhaust itself until I find a reason to smile, and a blessing to count, and a gift to cherish. Because, in the midst of the tears, God will cultivate kernels of hope.
And so, I work at choosing joy and finding hope. Thankful for technology that makes distances seem shorter, for less running around to allow more time with those nearby, for livestreamed services, for God's patient work in my heart, for evidence of more room to grow in the year ahead.