“Maybe this Christmas, the world can suck just a little less.” This attention-grabbing quote is from a devotional I will do for my Advent season. Dr. Katie Bowler, a professor from
Duke University, wrote it. She is a believer, and she is no stranger to suffering. Having been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at age 35, she has devoted her time to understanding faith amid difficulty and I admit, I resonate with the words in that quote.
With the week we had in the news nationally and internationally (at the time I am writing this, there have been several mass shootings, there is still war in Europe and parts of Africa, a famine caused by climate change, and we still do not know the loss of life that will continue to happen in the days, months, and years to come). Then finding out the girl who was killed in that tragic Raleigh parade accident was a child we had the privilege to love on, however briefly, it seems like this may be shaping up to be a blue Christmas.
Katie Bowler goes on to say, “(I can’t believe I put these words in the same sentence.) But come on. Isn’t this what we all want for Christmas this year? For reality to be a little less terrible? So, what do we do? Depends on the day, right? We have glimpses of light that seem God-given. And then some days are so dark we can only feel our way along.”
There is a bittersweet duality to the Advent season. So it must be if we celebrate the birth of a baby born to die for the brokenness of all humanity. Brokenness that we
each contributed to. So, somehow, we must hold the hope, joy, love, and peace Jesus ushers in with his birth in one hand and the pain, suffering, and sorrow of life in our
other hand. Just like Mary. Just like Joseph.
Scriptures tell us Mary knew what was in store for her sweet, divine newborn son, especially after Simon gave her his prophecy. She knew what it was like to hold the
joy and love of the birth of her first child, along with fear of what the future held for her beloved son. She must have shared this poignant truth with her husband, Joseph.
From the beginning, Mary and Joseph lived with this holy contradiction of Jesus’ birth, life, and death.
We should not be surprised. Some years, it is easier to focus on hope, joy, love, and peace, and in other years, the pain, suffering, and sorrow are more overwhelming because we are supposed to focus on what is held in the other hand, but we just can’ find our way. It might be especially hard this year when the world’s reality at this moment in history makes us want to shake both fists in despair. It is okay to feel blue this time of year. I know you do not need permission, but sometimes it is nice to hear it anyway. In fact, it is natural, dear one.
But I will also say that if your reality is genuinely terrible this year, or you cannot focus on the joy and peace that should be yours, take heart. This is precisely where
the world was when young Mary was carrying the Savior in her tummy. If this is your year’s experience, you may be in the perfect Advent frame of mind. If this is your frame of mind, then know that I am praying the light will break through the darkness by the time Christmas arrives, and I hope you will pray the same for me. Even if only for a moment. We need to remind each other of the promise of scripture from John’s version of the Christmas story. In him was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness
and the darkness did not overcome it.” Love wins. Go tell it on the mountains. Joy to the world and Merry Christmas, beloved!