If you find yourself in a place of grief, hurt, or pain this Christmas morning, then I pray some of these words will acknowledge your reality on Christmas, and maybe offer some comfort or hope.
However long we spend waiting, it almost always feels too long, right? Whether the outcome is good or bad, most of us would rather just get to it already instead of waiting another week, another day, or another hour. And yet, waiting must be endured as part of the human experience. To live is to wait. And while all waiting is challenging, some waiting is almost unbearably painful.
We wait for the depression to pass, for the dark cloud that follows our every footstep to dissipate. We wait for the torrent of tears to subside. We wait for the right medication to restore balance to our brains, so we can restore balance to our lives and our families before their patience runs out.
We wait for him to come back home, for her to change her mind and decide the marriage is worth fighting for. We wait for a cease-fire in the fighting. We wait for a glimpse of the person we fell in love with, for a reminder of why we united in the first place.
We wait for a check, a cure, or a conception. We wait for reconciliation, for the prodigal son to come home, for forgiveness to be granted, to be able to forgive the wrong done to us. We wait for our chance, our opportunity, our moment to move toward our dream.
We wait for the mercy of death to free our loved ones from pain. And then we wait, seemingly forever, to be reunited with them again. We wait for the pain to subside, but we fear what life looks like beyond the pain.
We wait for comfort, doubtful that it’s possible and afraid that it might be.
In our waiting, we enter a long story of humanity waiting on each other and waiting on God. Long ago, the people of God were slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God. They waited to be rescued. And God showed up and rescued them.
Then the people of God waited, wandering through the wilderness for forty years, to enter the Promised Land. They cried out to God. They waited to be led to new life. And God showed up and led them.
Then the people of God lived under oppression, waiting for the Messiah, the Christ, to fight for them, to protect them. They waited for a Savior. And God showed up, as a baby, at Christmas, to save them.
The people of God know the agony and anxiety of waiting. They’ve lived it. When we can’t find the words to capture the agony and anxiety of our circumstances, we can borrow and revive the words of God’s people who’ve gone before us:
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy…
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption. (Psalm 130)
We wait for God with our whole selves—our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. We plead for him to hear us, to interrupt our circumstances, and to enter our lives. We wait for the Lord with the intensity and desperate hopefulness of night watchmen waiting for the soft light of dawn.
Two thousand years ago a young couple in a stable waited for God to show up in their lives, too. A young, glowing, waddling, scared Mary waited to meet the child inside. The almost-parents waited to have the baby that would drastically and forever change not just their worlds, but THE world. They waited to see God’s words to them fulfilled. They waited to see what God would look like.
In this season, two thousand years later, we celebrate the baby born to them, and yet, we still wait for God to show up in our lives, to drastically and forever change them. We still wait to see the words of God fulfilled. We still wait to see what God will look like in our world.
We join the people of God throughout history who have cried out, “Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears by attentive to my cry for mercy…I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my trust.” Sometimes we feel like we shouldn’t cry out to God in our pain. We feel like it’s disrespectful or unappreciative to talk to God like that. And, then sometimes when we do cry out to Him, we feel like He’s not listening, so we stop telling Him how we’re really doing. But we see in the Bible that neither of these is reality.
We need not fear crying out to God. The Bible, story of the people of God, shows that God does hear the cries of his hurting people. We need not fear letting God know how we wait for him, desperate for his intervention in our lives. The Bible is the story of a God who shows up to a world in need.
Jesus showed up in our world as a baby, because God heard the cries of his people and responded. Jesus didn’t come for the pulled-together people with perfect lives—even if such people existed. Baby Jesus came to our world for the sick and the sinners. He came to our world in response to the cries of people who were hurting. Grown-up Jesus even went as far as calling those who mourn, “blessed.”
Yet in our current expression of Christmas, those of us who are hurting, lonely, sick, and mourning at this time of year often feel marginalized, not blessed. We feel pressure to put on a happy face so others can cheerfully celebrate Christmas. We feel guilty for our tears, trying to hide them from family and friends. We don’t want to be a burden. We don’t want to rain on others’ parades, but we’re hurting. We feel like something’s wrong with us, because, to us, it’s not the most wonderful time of the year.
But it’s not that there’s something wrong with us. There’s something wrong with our culture’s understanding of Christmas, because Christmas is for those who are hurting. The reason Christmas happened in the first place was because our world was hurting and broken. We celebrate Christmas to remember that God came to earth to save a world in need.Jesus came here for you. He didn’t come here in spite of you. Christmas happens to comfort you, not to hurt you. Jesus didn’t come here to make you hide your pain and mask your grief. He came here to be with you in your pain and grief. He didn’t come here to take away the darkness of your world, but to be a light in your world. He came here to experience your world, with all the disappointment, heartache, and loss your world includes. He came here so that he would understand your pain, and so you wouldn’t have to withstand it alone. Jesus came here to give you hope of a day when “‘He will wipe every tear from (our) eyes.’” When “’There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain.” (Rev 21:4)
That’s what Christmas is about!