This year, more than ever before, I am thinking of all the people in our community and city who will be sad on Christmas.
I have been more sensitized this year due to a recent emergency and illness in my own family, which disrupted my festive season. Suddenly, Advent and Christmas fell lower on the priority list. My attempt at an Advent spiritual practice went down the drain, as I scurried back and forth to the hospital on Long Island, to run errands for my mom and my hospitalized step-father, to tell and retell the story of what had happened, how he fell, how the bleeding in his brain had affected him and would continue to. To make sure I was gracious and not cranky when friends, colleagues, congregants asked how I was. To make sure I still took care of other responsibilities, to make sure I still took care of others in need. With my tired brain and discouraged heart, my prayers boiled down to singular words: “healing... wholeness... grace... peace... please, God....”
It always seems that more accidents, illnesses and deaths occur in the days preceding Christmas. Maybe it is a part of that great anticipation and in the hurriedness of dashing about that tragedy can occur. Or maybe it truly is just coincidence, no different from any other week, only made more poignant by the holiday.
I am thinking of those people in our community who are dealing with some tough stuff this week, like the death and illness of loved ones. Former Marble minister Rev. Kimberleigh Jordan wrote a poignant peace in the Huffington Post yesterday about missing yet celebrating her mother on the first anniversary of her death (you can read it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-p-kimberleigh-jordan/thinking-about-heaven-on-_b_1160612.html). The recession continues to take its toll, and unemployment affects so many, straining finances. The Church is noticing. More and more churches are having “quiet” Christmas Eve and Christmas Services this year, meant to take a more contemplative and somber tone for those who need it. More churches are seeking to provide additional help and support and pastoral care to those who are facing hard times, especially at Christmas.
In this busy and seasonally dark time of the year, we can find ourselves moving so fast that even the bright lights and joyous songs somehow miss us. We can move into our own insular dark places – yet even there Christ can be born. If Christ could be born in a dirty manger, to poor peasants in a poor, occupied land, Christ can come into each of us. If we can allow our hardened hearts to crack to allow even a sliver of light to shine through, we can find the illuminating peace and love of Christmas.
Life will still be hard. After Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had to run away, and travel far. We don’t know how they managed to eat, or where they stayed, and I bet their lives were far from easy and frightening at times. But they had faith, which sustained them. May Christ be born again in our own hearts, reminding us that God became human to live among us, to teach us, to love us, to change us, to save us. Nothing is impossible with God. May we all have faith, which may sustain us. I hope and pray that you all have a blessed Christmas.