I never dreamed there would be a time when I would dread Christmas, but here I am, sitting alone in a quiet house because I don’t have the emotional energy to join any of the festivities around me. I’ve been craving this solitude, a small bit of time I don’t feel pressured to pretend in order to keep every else’s spirits at a level where we can all manage to make it through these festive days that somehow feel even heavier. I’m grateful we have been able to stay cohesive and hold on to each other, respecting the fact that each of us is experiencing this loss in a different way, but feeling united because we all love and miss the same man. He was always crazy about Christmas, which makes this season even more bittersweet.
The thing about Christmas is despite the challenge of going through the motions while grieving, it’s the very thing we need. I’m not against the decorations, parties and gifts- they are a fun attempt to acknowledge the gift God gave us when he came down from heaven to be with us. But the fact is, he came to us in as simple a fashion as possible, and he came straight to the people who needed him most, the poor, sick, invisible, overwhelmed. I can appreciate the simplicity of presence right now. My heart is broken because I am missing my son’s presence, and it’s only the gentle presence of God that is holding it together.
I’m contemplating what pastor Ryan Rhodan reminds us of each Christmas; Jesus coming to earth was not a “rescue” mission, it was a redemption and restoration mission. Just as the devoted religious of his day missed the fact that God was right there with them because they were looking for a different kind of messiah and king (the human preoccupation with power), they wanted a rescue from their present circumstances, I also could miss what God has for me if I choose to be embittered that God hasn’t shown up the way I expected. He didn’t keep my son from dying. All those years of praying for safety over my children and my worst nightmare happens. If I only understood God and his sovereignty through the human eyes of power and control, my faith would be devastated right now. Of course I would prefer a rescue right now – for God to somehow undo what happened or to have stopped it in the first place. I would love to walk away from this reality, the constant pain and the unknown future. But God in his love offers something different. He gave Himself. Immanuel, God WITH us. He is here with me in my sorrow. He brought redemption and restoration of all things with his presence. This gift is a process- my own personal restoration and the restoration of all creation. We don’t get to snap our fingers and flee from the hardship and brokenness (I wish it was that way!) But how would I ever come to know him or grow to reflect him if it were not a process, a journey, step by step?