We’re five days post-Christmas and my heart and mind are still overshadowed and full, nearly overcome with collisions of emotion. I’m filled with peace, gratitude, joy, and also feeling an aching weight that is not my own, but carried by those I love.
There is a stillness in my spirit as I think of and pray for the many people I love who are walking through shadowed valleys of grief this season, thick in the messy middle of life-altering pain, hardship, loss.
When you’re on the under-side of joy, just waiting to surface and breathe again, you want to back away from the offensive jolliness of this season and be woken when it’s over. Like treading water in a sea of grief, the only focus is keeping your face above surface and surviving.
This Christmas Day a massive Typhoon tore up many homes and lives very close to us in the Philippines. Our family is still muddling through grief at the too-soon loss of our sister from cancer. Friends have lost children, are walking through broken marriages, being consumed with fear as Cancer is devouring their bodies, and many are locked in prisons of soul-crushing loneliness and they long that someone would see, know, and understand them.
If this is in any way a variation of your story, then Christmas in its deepest, truest form is for you right here, right now more than ever.
My mind is on The Father, and what the conversations, the emotional climate, of heaven must have been that first Christmas Eve between He, The Spirit, and The Son. They had always been together…. until now. This is a Father who intimately understands what it feels like to say goodbye to His child, to watch his beloved suffer, to be gutted by grief. And He did it for us.
Jesus’ coming to this broken, dark place was not an afterthought, a last-minute ditch effort after the Law, the prophets, the other plans didn’t work out. This was the plan since that dark day in the garden when the bottom fell out of perfection, when death dug his nails into all of us and decided to re-write our story.
Genesis 3:15 tells of the coming One who would undo and destroy the works of the Serpent and death-bringer,
“And I will put enmity (hostility) between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
That snake-head-crusher? He is The One who came to make untrue all of the deepest pain, the filth, that has defined us, and to take the pen that writes our story back again. He wants not to distract you from your loneliness and grief, but to be with you in it and walk you through it.
He is The rescuer who came to bring you freedom from your prisons, take your burned-out ashes and give you beauty instead, who came to take your coat of heaviness and soul-shattering grief and exchange it with Joy that drips off of you like oil.
To the head that is so far bent-low with heartache that it feels it cannot be held high again, He will lift your head up and hold it there. He is not a religion, a theology, an idea, but a SomeOne who came to be with you in the middle of all of this. Emmanuel. God stretched on skin and came into your world to be with you, for you, in you, to taste and know and meet with you in the depth of your heartache and be the remedy.
He offers all that He is, and asks for the gift of our broken shards and pieces... He asks for us.
“There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress..….
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9
Peace. Shalom. Literally meaning “Broken pieces becoming whole”. Jesus came to undo the works of the snake, to crush his head, to take death and give us life, and to exchange our shattered pieces for wholeness.
Let God With You sink in to the darkest, most gated-off places in your soul and remember that pain and death do not have the last word. Emmanuel does.