I’m really not at all sure about today’s readings.
Or rather, the quote from Nouwen makes sense, describing how we run from our inner pain by filling our lives with “people, books, events, experiences, projects and plans…” rather than listening “carefully to our resless hearts” and thereby starting to “sense that in the midst of our sadness there is joy, … in the midst of our fears there is peace, … in the midst of our greediness there is the possibility of compassion”.
And the psalm is utterly glorious… “weeping may linger for the night but joy comes with the morning…”
However, the prayer and the Christmas Action seem both to fly in the face of the wisdom of the above, encouraging us to deny our pain and manufacture a false joy.
This is something which we can be far too inclined to do, particularly in a church context. We put on our plastic smiles and clap our hands and wave our arms in the air and shout “hallelujah!” even when our hearts are breaking.
OK, this is the season of Christmas (and at this point I will confess that for me, it has been my best Christmas ever, suffused with joy and laughter, filled with peace and love and healing) and the world is being terribly jolly and bright. And yes, the glorious message of Christmas is that God is with us and of course that is something to rejoice in.
However, the heart of the story is that God came to be with us in a stable, the baby was laid in a manger… ox and ass, yes – and what do they produce in abundance?? manure! So surely God is with us in the shit of life, and if at this moment your own life feels as if you are up to your neck in it and someone’s making waves, then God is right there with you. That is the message of Christmas. And the promise is that, as you reach out and take His hand, He will lift you up out of the mess and set your feet on a firm foundation.
Yes, joy comes with the morning – but weeping lingers for the night, and it is right and proper that the weeping lingers until the particular night in which you might find yourself is ended.
Jesus wept. Jesus got angry. Jesus felt fear. Jesus rejoiced. Jesus loved. Jesus healed.
And still Jesus weeps with us, Jesus gets angry in the face of injustice, Jesus rejoices, Jesus heals and above all, Jesus loves you.
So may I suggest an alternative Christmas Action for today?
Today resolve to be honest with yourself and with God about how it really is for you. Today be angry with God if that is your true state. And when you are able, tell God you are willing to be made whole, and that you are willing for that to happen on His timescale.
And if you are in it up to your neck, reach out and take hold of the hand of that tiny babe in the manger who is right alongside you and who will lead you onto firm ground and clean you up.
And if you are on that firm ground already, Today resolve to be aware of any around you who are not, and reach out to them in love, accepting them in their pain and inability to rejoice with you.
And here are other people posting on the Advent Book Club: