Sunday, December 22, 2013

When Christmas and a Catastrophe Collide

A gun went off at a local high school last week.  Lives were lost, responders and press flooded the area, fighting for space among the parents and pastors frantically searching for their children. 

It has been only eight days, days that have moved at the pace of frozen mud.

And here you are-- surrounded with lit up trees, candy canes, and nativity scenes. But maybe the lyrics of "joy to the world" fall flat.

Perhaps you knew Claire, or Karl.  Maybe you were hiding in a closet at Arapahoe, or your brother goes there, or you were one of my coworkers and you had to keep your composure while you stabilized the victim.  Perhaps you are a mom of a friend of a friend of someone who knows…somebody affected.  

Maybe you have a different pain altogether this Christmas. Perhaps it's something dramatic and public, or just as heavy but private--the weight of depression or loneliness. 

Whatever your heart's pain , Christmas is this week for all of us.

What do you do with that? 

What do you do if the carols, and garland and cookies only make you feel more defeated? If it only reminds you that you don't feel the merriment of Christmas, that you don't feel the childlike security that often accompanies this time of year?

I don't have some great wisdom.  I'm not a psychiatrist, or a counselor. I'm merely a mother who is putting off laundry because my heart is heavy for the hurting today.  And the last thing I would tell you is to just crank up the Christmas Spotify a bit louder and pull yourself together.

But what if, this Christmas, we looked a little deeper into the nativity story?  What if we freed ourselves up from this pressure to feel happy and, instead, looked inside the manger for something more than happiness?  What if we looked deep into the nativity scene to find hope?

"A thrill of hope!" the weary world rejoices!

So, weary world, let's look into the manger, and see that the nativity is a much bigger story that our childhood traditions may declare.

Because in the manger is the God-child, who left a worthy home, to meet us where we are.  

Our Creator, left his throne, to jump into our pain.  

He was taking his first step on his journey to the cross, where he would conquer death, once and for all.

As this baby made his first home in a dirty, scratchy feeding trough, could he have been displaying that he was entering into our mess?  Into our fallen world, full of murders, and cancers, and broken hearts. 

As he welcomed the shepherds in his first hours, was he showing us that he has a heart for 'the least of these?' That he sees us, even if we feel unimportant or forgotten?  Was he promising to be our gentle shepherd and beckoning us to listen to his voice?

As the Messiah-baby drew in the wise men from a far country, could he have been hinting that his love would be for ALL the world?  Not just for the Jews, but for us too? And that if we seek Him, in our despair and depression, when our walk becomes a crawl, we will find Him.  

Weary world, there IS a thrill of hope.  There may not be a lot of happiness right now, perhaps not even joy or peace.  But deep within Bethlehem is the promise of hope.  That this baby Jesus was coming to make all things new.  And when we can feel hope, even just a mite of hope, it carries us through the valleys.  When we know that Jesus WILL make all things good.  

Weary Littleton, weary world, the hope giver appeared on Christmas, and the soul felt it's worth. You are loved.  You are seen, and understood.  The only hope for us is within the manger.

So fall on your knees, in tears or praise.  And as time passes, your hope will grow.  It will again produce joy.  

Romans 5:5
...and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

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