Merry and Bright?
I was driving with a friend last week, Christmas music on the radio, gentle conversation happening, when they said something along the lines of, “I really try to enjoy Christmas…. I really do.” While the subject was quickly changed, the comment stayed with me, as I pondered what pressure there is on us to “have a merry Christmas,” or sing “Joy to the World,” with our heart in the words. So much of Christmas seems to be focused on this message… it is a time of great joy… sing loud hallelujahs and hark the heralds and glorias.
I began to think about the world Jesus was born into. Political strife rampant, with a census taking place so the king could make sure he was receiving all of his taxes so his wealth could increase. And Jesus, himself, was born in a traumatic situation; his mother forced to journey a long distance at nine months pregnant, shunned by the inn keepers in the town, giving birth far away from her family and support system, and then having to flee to save Jesus’ very life. I’m sure hallelujahs and joy were far from this family’s hearts (even though there was probably a deep sense of joy at the birth!). The trauma and pain and injustice surrounding the whole story must have been overwhelming.
Sitting with theses two juxtaposing images of joy and trauma, I felt more grateful for this story. How would we feel if Jesus had been born surrounded by aunts and midwives and been loved and safe from the very beginning? Sure, it would make a nice tidy story. But there is something deeper and more reassuring about the story we know.
None of us go through life unscathed. All of us are threatened, hurt, sick, anxious, grief filled, and so much more, at some stage in our lives. All of us experience some level of trauma at some point. And while we would not wish trauma on anyone, how comforting it is to know that Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, came into a life that began and ended in a state of trauma. That God With Us knows how it feels to walk this earth with the scars of fear. That the Prince of Peace has experienced a time where there was no peace and even became a refugee to save his life. That the Mighty God came to us, unwelcomed in a strange city.
If, this Christmas, you find yourself struggling to find joy, to feel merry and bright, to sing hallelujahs, don’t worry. Remember that God came to be with us, to experience pain and trauma and sadness. That God came to be with us. Just sit with this part of the miracle. That Emmanuel, God With Us, was born. To be right here with us. In and through all of what is happening in and around us. Allow this drown out any ‘should’ about how you feel, and just know Emmanuel, born in a stable in the midst of trauma and dis-ease and conflict, here with you. For this is enough…. This is more than enough. Emmanuel. God is with us. May we each know the truth of this one fact deep within. And may this be our guide through Christmas this year.
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