This Christmas season I was invited to light an advent candle and share a reading at my church. I was asked to speak on sorrow in the face of joy. Here is what I shared:
I get that the holiday season is not always merry. Two days before Christmas last year my mother passed away and we spent the entire Christmas Day in snowbound PDX [airport in Portland, Oregon] trying to get to her funeral. This Christmas will be the first one without my wife’s parents who passed away this summer within 9 days of each other.
The most joyful season can fill us with the most pain. Ask the families of Bethlehem who endured the loss of their own babies because King Herod was jealous of the Christ-child who had fled to Egypt, a refugee.
My mother’s favorite* Christmas carol sums up this joy-sorrow mix. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, writing during the Civil War, despaired that “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”
|With Mom at the site of her childhood school|
But nothing could erase her trademark joy-filled smile. When news came that her home had been bombed (she was away at the time), that 10-year-old girl entrusted her life to Jesus, her one true security.
Even in her fading days, her joy continued to shine through. Planted there by her Lord, it was far deeper than anything this earth could erase. As Longfellow concluded, “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
I’ve discovered that joy is not the absence of sorrow. Rather joy is the beacon shining through the darkest days of our lives. Christmas will be different in our house this year, maybe not so merry at times, but certainly filled with joy.
*Mom had lots of favorite Christmas carols and any number of us who knew her clearly heard her say that such-and-such carol was her favorite.