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When Christmas Hurts

December 17, 2020 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: Matthew 11:28

When Christmas Hurts Meditation

December 17, 2020

Matthew 11:28

While Advent is a season of hope and Christmas is a season of joy, not everyone feels hopeful or joyful. Grief, illness, isolation, depression, and loss are all very real, especially this year as we continue to grapple with COVID-19. Even those who are not struggling with such things may feel the stress of preparation and expectations around Christmas time. These deep emotions are often misunderstood, not only by ourselves but also by those around us. These feel especially out of place during the holidays. Recognizing the great need in our lives at all times but especially now, we come together seeking healing and hope, as well as a place to express this need. Because of all these things, we gather to seek comfort, solace, and peace which comes from our Prince of Peace, Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Here in the northern hemisphere, December 21 marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and the official start of winter. In the midst of long nights and short days, this service takes place near to this day. Tradition says that nature and all her creatures stop at the winter solstice and hold their breath to see if the sun will turn back from its wandering, if the days will lengthen, and if the earth will once again feel the sun’s warmth. We, too, come with our yearnings seeking the return of light and hope. The good news is that no matter what may happen in our lives or in the world around us, there is light and hope in the One who is the Light of the world and the Hope for all nations. The good news is that light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). Jesus Christ is that Light of the world.

Even now, in the midst of the pandemic, we have placed decorations, lights, and ornaments in our churches and homes, reminding us of a deeper, abiding truth. As beloved and festive as these things are, they may not reflect what’s going on inside your heart and mind. And so we cry out to the Lord Jesus who tells us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This is Jesus who has come into our world of pain and loss in order to redeem and restore us. He has come that we may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). This is Jesus who has come to fulfill all that was written in the Law and the Prophets, including this promise from Isaiah: “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorry and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10). Sorry and sighing shall flee away – what a glorious promise! This promise has been gloriously fulfilled in Jesus, who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… [who] was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4-5). The Lord invites us to cast all our cares and anxieties upon him, knowing how much He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). If God did not spare the life of his only Son, but freely offered him up for us all, will He not also now give us what is needed for each day (see Romans 8:31-38)? A hymn that is not associated with this season, but nevertheless has a profound message, is “If You But Trust in God to Guide You” (Lutheran Book of Worship 453). Stanzas 1 and 2 are especially helpful:

 If you but trust in God to guide you                      What gain is there in futile weeping,

And place your confidence in him,                         In helpless anger and distress

You’ll find him always there beside you,                If you are in his care and keeping,

To give you hope and strength within.                  In sorrow will he love you less?

For those who trust God’s changeless love            For he who took for you a cross

Build on the rock that will not move.                    Will bring you safe through ev’ry loss.

The joy of Christmas, like the joy of Easter, is not a shallow joy. It is joy that knows the reality of weakness, suffering, and death. But this joy triumphs through Jesus who was born, lived, died, and rose again that we may have life, not only now but eternally. May this truth be our rock and anchor not only at Advent and Christmas, but at all times and in every season of life. Amen.

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