Pain During The Christmas Season

By Sarah Anderson

Christmas—for many—is not an easily navigated season. It is burdened with paradox—powerful hope, joy, expectation—but also brings to the surface long buried hurts, and fresh felt pain. It is a season of contradiction.

This Christmas, it is never more true. The tragedy of Connecticut felt deeply personal and brought a sense of innocence lost to us a nation. But in my corner of the world, it seems Christmas this year bears unwelcome news and unforeseen pain, to more people than years past.  For many, Christmas this year will hurt in a way it never has before. And that makes the season increasingly complicated. The paradox this year is as obvious as ever.

Yet, this season of Advent, of yearning for resolution and activity from God, may more resemble Israel’s own wait 2,000 years ago. After centuries of unanswered grief and unexplained waiting, they were frantic for a sign—hungry for a spoken Word.  Thousands of years later, again, we look for answers, and explanations, but these days our anticipation is for a returning King—a king who will make things right. And maybe now, more than ever, we need things to be made right.

The best response I heard to the madness on December 14 was simply, Come, Lord Jesus. Anyone who has been in the throes of grief can relate. When there seems no way through, we want Jesus to offer a way out. It is a prayer we repeat and fixate ourselves on knowing He has come once, and believing He will come again.

On days like recent ones it is easy to get lost in the brokenness. We remember that Eve ate the fruit, Adam followed suit, and the repercussions have echoed through the complicated, sometimes devastating, woven tales of humanity ever since. To explain the pain, we go back to why it started in the first place. But the story started long before Genesis 3. Two rich chapters before. Two chapters which give us insight and beauty into a garden that may be lost, but also into a Creator who is not. Let us be mindful that in the beginning a good God made a good world. This is true first. Pain screams otherwise. Death protests. Hurt retaliates. But none of these can negate the character of the good God who was present, in the beginning.

It is this good God who sent His son, whose presence changes the trajectory of eternity, whose involvement causes us to hope in the midst of devastating loss. It was this hope that caused Dietrich Bonheoffer—a German theologian—to write to his fiancé while in a Nazi prison facing death himself, these words of comfort. “God is in the manger,” he assured. And that changes things. It is a confidence in a good God, in a present God, in a God who shows up, that no sadness—however deep—however penetrating it might be, can take away. This alone gives us the strength and the endurance to weep with those who weep, to mourn with those who mourn, and to summon the strength to hold tightly to what we know to be true—one day.

Come, Lord Jesus.

This Christmas, this season of Advent is not simply for the arrival of the God who came once in unsuspecting circumstances to unsuspecting spectators. This Christmas we wait for a God who we know will come again to make things right when meaningless madness and sudden sorrow raises questions our finite minds have no capability to handle. We wait for a God who will marry the paradoxes of this world. Who will prove worthy an object of hope. Who will give cause for celebration while ministering to our wounds. Who will draw near. Nearer than a manger. Nearer than even our own spirits.  Who will reign in a way the deepest parts of us hope He will.

 

Come, Lord Jesus. Good God, come again.

Orange Conference 2018