Our world is weary, sorrow-laden, desperately longing for hope. And so are we. Last year I felt the weight of a friend grieving the loss of her mother (while she was pregnant with twins), a friend waiting for a friend-gone-missing to be found – in all of it, it’s the waiting that is so weighty.
This year is no different, although the burdens I feel are. They’re taking the shape of a friend who’s been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and awaits her prognosis/treatment plan; another friend who just made it through her mom’s year of cancer treatment only to find out her dad’s been diagnosed, too; a beloved leader who’s sitting in the question of what the spots on his mom’s lungs could be; and those are just the start, aren’t they?
Moving the circle a bit closer to home, I could tell you the story of a pastor-counselor couple who are on the verge of burn-out and desperately limping toward the gift of a sabbatical in February. It’s a story of seeking to find one another again after nine years of marriage and ministry, including five years of parenting twins. It’s a story that includes the expected dips and peaks of disappointment and joy that come with life. It’s a story with unexpected hope that shines light into the darkest moments.
And it’s a story that leaves me longing this Advent – this Christmastide – for the best and surest and most wild Christmas miracle that I could ask for: darkness-defying songs in our hearts and on our lips.
I can report this to you: the Christmas miracle we need is coming to us. Because it already came — wrapped up in a baby, in the most unassuming of places (a stable in Bethlehem) and to the most scandalous of families (a pregnant unwed mother whose fiance hurriedly married her as soon as he could to prevent scandal and out of radical obedience to God). Because God took on human flesh, I can shed the shame that cloaks me (when I think about my failure to celebrate this season as I should/could/desire to) and the depression that wants to own me. I can take on a new identity: life, joy, peace – that are real. And I can follow our five-year-old daughters as they lead the way in worship of our newborn King. As they gleefully proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest!” even when out of context (in response to news that they were going to get to watch TV while my husband and I chatted with dinner guests). As they spontaneously break out into choruses of “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “Away in a Manger,” while we’re driving through the December schedule of gift-buying, Christmas programs, and generally-trying-to-fit-too-much-into-Advent.
Jesus came as a baby, and his life was prophesied by Isaiah this way: “A little child will lead them.” (11:6) And in following Jesus, we will be led by the children in our midst in surprising ways at times. Our daughters are leading us into the Christmas miracle our weary hearts need – which is a miracle of joy.