Red holiday cups, Michael Bublé crooning carols over every store speaker and, in Florida, icicle lights hanging from every roofline. Christmas is here again! It’s the holiday sure to put a pep in your step and a bright smile on your face!
Except for those years it doesn’t.
Some years are just hard. Some years Christmas reminds us of loss. A stocking is missing on the mantle, a hard relationship somehow becomes harder, and we paste on smiles to make it through the family meal. Some years we just feel off.
If you’re following along in our Gospel Reading Plan, you may have noticed the ironic timing of the readings during this Advent season. We are smack dab in the middle of the brutal death of our Savior and the events leading up to it. We are hearing the crack of a whip and the heartbreak of a mother watching her son in pain. It’s a strange juxtaposition, hearing the cries of childbirth in a rundown stable next to the sobs of death at the foot of a cross.
But maybe there is an intentional beauty found in that irony. Maybe the rustic setting of the stable and the humiliating death we see coming is meant to remind us sometimes life is hard, and that’s OK. Sometimes Christmas is hard, and that’s OK. Sometimes the peppy step never lands and the smile stays pasted on, and that’s OK. Jesus never shied away from the hard feelings. He never balked at grief or turned his back on pain. He sat with the joyful and the mournful alike.
The very essence of Jesus’ time on earth was dotted with pain and joy, with laughing and grieving, sometimes in the very same breath. The life he lived on earth was filled with all of the best and worst moments of being human. He wholeheartedly rejoiced with the widow being given back her only son as keenly as he heaved tears of sorrow with his closest friends at the news of the death of their beloved brother. He knew the brightest moments of life as well as the dark, and he understood those desperately black nights can deceivingly eradicate all hope of joy ever entering again.
But, as the angel told the frightened shepherds on their dark night in a lonely field,
“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
Light had arrived.
Whether you find yourself happily humming along to the sounds of Christmas this year or slowly plodding through this Advent season with a heavy heart, remember, the birth of Jesus was the beginning of a life which would bring an end to death—permanently.