Oh Christmas Day!
So it’s Christmas Day finally and it feels strange to wake up at my family home and not having to greet my parents. This has been my habit and practise for as long as I remember that not being able to do so this years feels odd. There have been times when I was not home for Christmas but there was always that mandatory phone call or Christmas card or goodies sent across but this year all I have are memories.
Yes, there is something bittersweet about having to celebrate Christ’s birth so soon after the passing of my dad at the end of November. Somehow one feels that it’s bad timing or that it’s unfair or that it’s just an awful thing to happen but as am learning the hard way that such emotions are natural and expected when one is dealing with the loss of ones parents.
However, the Bible also talks about ‘being thankful at all times’ and as one explores that thought one realises ‘at all times’ means just that... at all times. Good times and bad times. Joyful moments and sad. Celebrations and bereavement. The entire gamut of what encompasses life and that can be a bitter pill to swallow when one is struggling to maintain ones balance.
Gratitude can be tricky in such situations and does require a step of faith because it involves walking through a deep fog and expecting not to bump into something or plunging headlong into an abyss. Faith requires such impossible steps because taking such small steps into the unknown can sometimes pave the way towards healing.
There is this naive assumption that faith is like a placebo and is expected to make things better almost like magic. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the worst case scenario is exactly what we end up with, or for that matter, the thing we dreaded the most is what happens. So what do we do when that happens? Do we continue having faith because somehow things don’t end up the way we want them to be?
I don’t have answers to those questions since I struggle with them, too. However, I’m also learning that along with gratitude there’s also room for trusting God in the circumstances we find ourselves in. I guess, it involves recognising that God knows the big picture even though the situation in the short term might be causing us grief and heartbreak. What it really means is that faith is not the abracadabra route to having things our way but is about believing ‘all things work together for the good of them that love God and are called according to his purpose.’ Quite simply, it means that the bump in the road, the gash, the wound and the struggle is not the end of the road or the complete picture but rather it is just another step in the journey of life where God has promised to be with us till the end.
God’s presence is not meant to be an escape from difficulties but rather a reminder that we cannot wish difficulties away as they are part of life but there is also this assurance that we won’t be alone in facing the difficulties.
Thus, in our saddest moments we can reach out to him in gratitude and thank him that whatever we are going through is not something we are facing alone but he is with us. The other name for Christ is Immanuel - or God with us - and this serves as a reminder that as we struggle through life God is not somewhere far away and detached from all that matters but is here with us to calm us with his presence.
The birth of Christ in a manger shows that God is there at the most unexpected places and not always the way we want him to be. As some of us struggle with grief and bereavement, this birth of the Christ Child reveals that our greatest comfort at this time can be in knowing that he left his heavenly throne to be with us... and in doing so, he knows what it is to lose and what it is to suffer pain at a human level
Once we are on this road, we suddenly realise that our parents far from disappearing completely are now with him in the heavenly realms... probably celebrating Christmas in the holy of holies or worshipping along with the saints, apostles, prophets and martyrs down the centuries... a death though painful for us to accept on earth but for them a doorway to life in its fullest sense possible.
Now if we look at it this way, our grief turns to praise as we know they are in a much better place and that some day we will meet again... not just them but also Him whose birth on earth we celebrate today.