Tag Archives: Christmas Eve

Joy amidst despair

It’s been a few weeks since we lit the Advent candle of joy and here we stand, poised to celebrate another Christmas Eve.  And yet, the world is dark–ravaged by war, injustice, insecurity, and violence.  And so perhaps you do not feel it.  At first, I did not feel it.  At first I was wont to ask, where, how can I find joy this season?

But we do not find joy.

We do not carve joy, just as we do not carve prayer, peace, patience, or goodness of our own devices.  We wait, as we have for at least the last twenty-seven or days, if not much, much, much longer.  We wait on God for joy.

As we studied the words of Isaiah’s prophecies these past weeks, we were met with a world full of judgment, impending doom, violence, and war.  And yet, God, through the words of Isaiah, called the people not to ally with foreign forces but to wait upon God for Emmanuel.  Hundreds and hundreds of years later, the terms of the census, the reign of Herod, and the world Jesus was born into were inhospitable to him and to his family.  His parents struggled to stay together in a culture that shunned their out-of-wedlock pregnancy; and when they made the pilgrimage toward Bethlehem, they probably did so with not joy but great inconvenience, with great fear and awe and worry.

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Hold onto joy.

The Christmas joy we want and we expect, that burst of joy from the heavens, joyous singing, harmony, and peace is not how I know God to have made joy biblically or in my own life.  Rather, God in God’s almighty wisdom seems quite wont and capable to carve joy from the most unlikely of circumstances, to bring joy when despair is the currency of the day.  Perhaps this, rather than trumpets and fanfare and glee, is what the birth of Jesus is really about–about God’s will to bring light to a dark world when it seems so bleak, so impossible, so, so, so difficult?

Look back on your own life and think about the moments were joy peeked inexplicably, unexpectedly, impossibly through the veil of sadness, despair, and fear.  Think about the breath and the beauty of light in a world or a room filled with darkness.  And care and coddle and nurture that kind of joy this season.  Welcome and look for and do not dismiss that kind of radical joy that finds the world and finds us in the midst of despair.  In fact, strive to remind the world that that kind of joy is not only possible but present, and let us live with this joy not only one day, on Christmas, but each day, even if the world remains dark.

 

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Minor delays and major miracles

So here’s what happened on the way home: we checked in at Tucson only to find our flight to Chicago was delayed, so we went out to lunch and got back to the airport only to find as we were boarding our flight to Chicago that our flight from Chicago to Philly had been cancelled.  So Tucson rebooked us on another flight to Philly via Minneapolis.  Then we waited in Minneapolis for at least five hours, finally got into Philly, and home to Princeton around 3 am, all without our bag of Christmas goodies, which is currently lost somewhere in the continental United States.

We were a little grumpy and a lot tired today, but the whole saga gave us an excuse to sleep in, to hunker down in our little apartment, to reacclimatize to real world issues–investments, insurance, and bag searching (it’s still MIA…hmmm)–and gain some perspective.

Sunset above the earth.  Photo by Evan Schneider.
Sunset above the earth. Photo by Evan Schneider.

Here’s the perspective I was granted today…

“It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season—like all the other seasons—is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them.” —Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal

As I sat in church on Christmas Eve and heard the scriptures read, especially the one from Luke where Mary and Elizabeth greet one another, where we get the first glimpses of the savior of the world by way of two humble women gathering together, I got another sense of how miraculous this age old story is and how lowly, ragamuffin, and misfit its origins–the pregnant, engaged couple, likely late with their legal registration, put out in the barn for their social sin, yet called Holy by angels, God, and today, humanity.

In the midst of the sorrow and the brokenness of this world, too, there must be miracles enough for all of us.  

When we pause, or we’re granted a pause to collect these miracles, to ponder them like Mary, in our hearts, I think we’d do well to name them and give God glory for not only the major miracles but also the minor delays which make them visible.

What about you?  Are there miracles in your midst this season?  Will you ponder them, name them, and glorify God?