Psalm 42:1,2,5 – As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. (NIV)
It was a sad Christmas. A special, long-time friend and companion had died suddenly, and a light had gone out of my life with her passing. No amount of positive and faith-based thinking lifted me from the doldrums. My energy had waned, and holiday activities didn't interest me in the least. Advent came, and the house wasn't decorated. The cookie-baking list hung limply on the fridge. The Christmas wreath failed to adorn the front door. Instead of Christmas thoughts and plans, my mind was saturated with memories of my friend and the pain that she endured before the release of death brought freedom, and with thoughts of how unfair her passing seemed to me. Life was the pits, and I wondered how long it would be before this deep lethargy and sadness would lift.
As usual, I wondered where God was when I needed Him, as the psalmist wrote, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." Have you ever found that? When things are really tough, God just seems to disappear. Our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, and that still, quiet voice is so still as to be indiscernible. Grief and Christmas just don't go very well together, I thought, and then, I thought again.
What was it like for God on that first Christmas morning, when, instead of having His Son beside Him as He had been from the beginning of time, He watched Him from the heavenly realms as He was born in a lowly manger? What was it like for God to see earthly parents raising His beloved One and Only? How did it feel not to be able to communicate with Jesus in the way they'd always had? How had He come to grips with what He knew was to be the fate of His Son at the hands of man? Mmmm, maybe for God, Christmas and grief do go together. That is why, on that sad Christmas, even though I didn't feel like it, I chose by faith to continue to put my hope in God, my Saviour, that in time, joy would once more permeate my soul. I chose to believe that in God's hands, all things can be worked together for good. I embraced the truth of Scripture that God is with me all the time and is comforting me even when I cannot feel or hear Him. Yes, out of the depths of my misery, loneliness, and confusion, I would continue to choose to hope and praise Him, wondering, as I did so, whether perhaps this might truly be one of the best gifts that I could ever offer Him: the gift of faith and hope in Him, my Saviour and God, amidst a sad Christmas.
Prayer: Father God, we thank You that You are a God Who understands everything about us, that You do care, and that You are with us in the midst of our loneliness, pain, and confusion, for indeed You are Immanuel: God with us. Bless those who mourn and grieve this Christmas season. Strengthen them to choose to embrace the truth of Your living Word, Jesus Christ, that they might have the faith and hope to present You with the gift of praise for Who You are, amidst their sea of pain. In Christ's name, we pray. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" (Lyrics)