I’ve posted exactly 3 blog posts since starting seminary three and a half years ago. While writing so many papers, I had nothing left.
But Advent. Advent always gets me thinking. While this year I was all set to spend my advent focused on joy, circumstances have pushed me in a new direction. Christmas time is a season of glitz and sparkle, stars and candles, hope and anticipation. The nativity story is full of proclamation, surprise, worship, and new birth. But where does that leave us when we face loss during the holidays?
We know loss happens everyday. Loss of a job, loss of a home, loss of purpose, and loss of life. In the last two years, two of my uncles have died near Christmas, men who lived long lives, loved by family. This year’s advent? a teacher friend passed away, a friend diagnosed with cancer, other loved ones suffering great losses. You know people who are suffering too, or maybe you’re the one with loss. For these dear ones, Christmas will never be the same. Always partnered with an anniversary, a reminder. Among the glitter and gold of advent, does the nativity scene leave room for heartache and suffering? I’ve ended up thinking about loss, and whether Mary, Joseph, the star-gazing magi, God, and even sweet baby Jesus have left us room to mourn.
My conclusion so far is that they absolutely do. My evidence?
Mary, bringing a new messiah into a honor-based society, loses her reputation, her home, and all sense of what the future for a Jewish girl might look like.
Joseph, who agrees to be step-dad to God’s son, loses his home as his family becomes refugees in a foreign land.
Wise magi, seeking to worship a new king, suddenly have to change direction for fear of their lives.
God, providing the Way, Truth & Life, gives up his son, knowing it will bring pain and death.
Sweet Baby Jesus, leaving the glory of the trinity and all he knows, to be one of us.
But one more, if we will believe Matthew’s version of the story.
The people. Under the outraged Herod, mass infanticide is forced upon the people. While the Holy Family are running to Egypt, Herod is ordering all males under two be killed. Place yourself there for one minute. Word has just arrived to your neighborhood, the king is hunting toddler boys. What harm could your tiny boy possibly bring to Herod? You have no idea, but you know there are soldiers coming. You can try to run, or hide, maybe… but the soldiers are coming. The massive amount of loss and grief in the air of Bethlehem during Herod’s insecurity must have been palpable, nauseating, suffocating.
That’s the world our Sweet Refugee Baby Jesus was born into. If you find yourself facing loss this holiday season, looking around at the twinkling lights and fluffy bows, and you just aren’t feeling it, know that you’re not alone. If you have kids or know kids and need to keep it up for them, someone else can do your shopping, just ask. Someone else can do your wrapping, just ask. Or, if you can, allow yourself to say, “no Christmas this year, I can’t.”
Remember to breathe.
Deep breaths, one at a time.
And if you’re the support that a suffering person needs, remind them to breathe. Listen. Don’t tell them that “God needed another angel.” Don’t tell them that tomorrow will be better. Don’t put your needs for celebrating onto them, or tell them that it’s time to move on, or tell them that coming to the Christmas party will be good for them. Listen to their needs, give them space. Remind them to eat, drink water, and breathe. For now, that’s all they can do.
Peace be with you.