I’ll be attending our the local Blue Christmas service at FBC again this year. This service is one of my favorite Christmas events because it allows me a chance to pause in the middle of Christmas craziness and joy and remember my losses in the past year as well.
Rick Warren once said that our lives are not separate periods of highs and lows, but parallel tracks of highs and lows moving simultaneously. The older I get, the more I understand the veracity of this statement.
I think as Americans we fear grief. We worry so much of complaining or whining. Yet, in my work as a counselor, I see far less complaining than I see stuffing and far less whining than avoiding true- and valid- feelings. People always say we wouldn’t know joy if we didn’t know pain- I would add to that the more we allow ourselves to experience the depths of our grief, the more brilliant will be the sparks of our pleasure.
This year I experienced the intense pain of losing my uncle (a wonderful and loving man) and the penetrating bliss of marriage. There were several other losses along the way- unemployment, rejection, broken relationships… And several other joys as well- new birth, fresh start, friendships…
This Christmas what stands out to me the most, however, is not a tangible thing. What stands out this Christmas is a new worldview. I’ve known for a long time of the suffering and poverty of this world, but I’ve never known it as fully as I have come to know it since working for Pathways.
Knowing about poverty, trauma, and suffering and being involved in the lives of those experiencing it are two different things. Talking with people who don’t have electricity this week, or are walking everywhere because their car broke down and they can’t afford another one, or who have no money to buy their kids even a single Christmas gift has changed my view of Christmas. Talking with people who have experienced abuses and trauma unimaginable has changed my view of the world.
Since working at Pathways I find myself getting in my car at the end of the day and thinking how thankful, how truly thankful, I am to have a car. I find myself waking up in the morning and thinking about how thankful I am not only to have a home, but to have a home with electricity and heat. I find myself attending holiday gatherings and being thankful that I grew up in a family that modeled how to make and keep friends.
So, my friends, this Christmas I will grieve the knowledge of these families and faces who are struggling so much in a time when I enjoy the warmth of friends, family, food and fun.
But as always I will rejoice in a savior who takes on all pain and brings all joy.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear