Advent is here and another Christmas approaches. Even though Christmas is hard now I am finding comfort in the liturgy of the church, in celebrating the birth of Christ at the same time of year that countless Christians through the ages have also celebrated.
I now have a date in my life that changed everything, that marks the separation of myself into two – two different lives, two different experiences of God. That’s just how it is now. But the rhythm and the motion of the church calendar defines my life in a different way, a sacred way that binds my own heart to the hearts of all other believers in Christ.
I guess that’s how life is. There is darkness and sorrow, but it is framed within the beauty and joy of the sacred feasts: Christ’s birth, Christ’s death and resurrection, Christ’s ascension to the Father. These are the events that define and shape the life of a believer just as do the individual trials and hardships.
Some friends are living in a valley darker than many will ever enter. They have given their two year old daughter back to Jesus, after months of pain and suffering.
Josh and I were among the group of mourners at her graveside. There is something about standing at a graveside that makes the rest of the world retreat. For a few minutes that grave, that sorrow, that moment in time is all there is. Nothing else matters except the knowledge that there is one more in Heaven waiting for us and we are left to mourn and then to press on. Those are sacred moments that mark our path to Glory.
But Christmas is sacred too and I am grateful this year that God gives us feast days to mark our path with joy. He knows the sorrow and He is Lord of it, but He also knows we need the joy and the feasting, to lift up our heads and remind us of the beauty and majesty and love of our Savior.
It seems to me that faithfulness is not just mourning but rejoicing as well. We have dear friends who in the space of a week witnessed the marriage of their daughter and the death of a father. Yet another testimony of delights and shadows. And they too will be celebrating Christmas and the birth of the One whose life determines all of life – life on both sides of death. Surely it is right to rejoice at such a birth!