Disclaimer: These have been my thoughts over the past week. Excuse the lack of editing. If i edit it, then i will be hiding the tension. i don’t want to do that either.
Advent is very important to me. When I served in the church, it was my favorite time of planning during the church year. We traveled through the marvelous feelings of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love as we anticipated the arrival of the baby boy, Jesus. Advent is a time of reflection, expectation and hope knowing that all will be well on Christmas Day.
But will it?
The news this week has been inundated with Duck Dynasty and Frank Schaefer, two topics I never imagined would be in the same sentence. The leader of the Dynasty is being celebrated for comparing homosexuality to bestiality and wishing we could go back to the days of Jim Crowe, as he condemns those who hunger for love and acceptance. On the other side, a leader in the Methodist church has been defrocked by his denomination for accepting and loving his son enough to officiate his wedding to his husband. Both of these happened in a country where we claim to be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I am not going to get into the right and wrong of the aforementioned. The government didn’t take away Phil’s freedom of speech and Frank’s sons are still married. What bothers me is the fact that I know many families who can’t celebrate Christmas this year because their sons or daughters are no longer here. You see, in the midst of all the judgment, condemnation and defrocking, people forgot that these actions over the past years have led to suicides. People, who have been in pain for so long, rejected, hurt, shamed and ridiculed for trying to find out who they are, killed themselves to take away all the pain. Instead of helping those who are hurt, people are more worried about saving souls rather than saving lives. That’s not what Christ was about. I know too many families who will be in pain this year without their children present. Where will Phil and the Methodist church be?
That leads me to some other concerns. This is the time of year when families will do all they can to be together to celebrate. I am working Christmas Day and the days following. I don’t believe I would rather be anywhere else. I will be with people who are hurting and recovering. I will be with people who are holding on to every breath. I will be with people who are alone. The added benefit is I will be with people who do save lives. We will be there together, doing what we can to meet the needs of those in the hospital for the holidays.
Don’t worry though. I will be with my family on Saturday for a short visit. This is a new job and I am not able to take time off until later in January. I’m ok with that. It’s a job that I’ve waited for and have worked extremely hard to have. I am driving to my hometown on Saturday and coming back on Sunday. My job won’t allow for more time off right now, yet I was told to be sure to thank my siblings for getting together on Saturday because they all had to rearrange their schedules in order to meet my limited availability. Six hours of driving, gas money I don’t have and continuing to do what I can to be able to see family, yet I have to say thank you. Somehow, I am supposed to find joy and celebration when I feel like an inconvenience. I will still be happy to see them though.
I can’t help but think about those who wish they could see their family members this Christmas and not feel inconvenienced: my friend in Alabama will be without his dad for the first time, my dear friend will be without her husband for the first time in 44 years, the families who lost their children to suicide, bullying and judgment, and those who will be in the hospital with no family around. I also can’t help but think about my Dad who would have done anything to see me at Christmas and not complain about it at all. He would have been so proud of me. I so wish he were here now.
Then I do have moments of joy too; joy for Jamie, Julie and Joe who reach out to me on the phone, joy for Jenny and John who had a wonderful time with family on their cruise, my friend whose daughter came home from Scotland for Christmas, my niece who made the high school basketball team, Beth and Kristin who are both expecting,
Robbie who simply adores Lisa, John and Joy who brought Christmas and family to three precious boys, and the list can go on. There is joy for Phil and Frank too. Phil’s family is by his side and Frank’s family is celebrating love and marriage. Incredible.
My greatest joy at the moment is the fact that I am working and doing what God has prepared me for my entire life. I am working on Christmas Day and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am called to be God’s presence for those in need. On Christmas Day, I will be working with some of the most wonderful nurses in the world, to be there for those who are hurting or worse, dying. I will be there with some of the greatest doctors and nurses in the land, to give hope for those searching in the darkest of places.
I have to shake the dust off my feet to get on my knees and thank God for
giving me this job and this heart that worries and feels for those hurting. It does come with the tension of finding hope, peace, joy and love in the midst of grief, judgment, shame and hurt. Nobody should feel shame, guilt, judgment or pain, especially during the holidays. Many people are being held captive right now, by words, shame and judgment. Nobody should be grieving either, but sadly we are.
There is too much tension this Christmas and I pray for freedom from that tension. My prayer for this Christmas is that the promise of the Christ child will be fulfilled soon, because the world is hurting so much right now and nobody deserves that. Come and set the captives free.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel!
Lord, please come and set the captives free.