Blue Christmas Sermon - 20 December 2009
Pain is more poignant during the holidays. This is supposed to be the happiest time of year. It is a time for parties and get-togethers. It is a time for celebrations and special events. But if you are hurting it is a time that can be absolutely overwhelming.
Christmas is filled with so many memories, so many traditions, so many things that are supposed to be just so and when our life has been turned upside down we can't help but feel upset.
Experiencing a loss is hard enough, but going through the holidays makes it feel overwhelming.
Some people will sympathise and say they understand, but they don't. They can't. Each of us have problems and pains that are unique. They are as individual as we are. For example even a husband and wife will experience their grief over the death of their child in different ways.
That is part of the problem. No one really knows. No one really understands. And because they don't they sometimes say or do stupid things.
Some will ignore you and even go out of their way avoid talking to you because they simply don't know what to say.
Being expected to smile when it is all you can do not to cry; being expected to be happy when you feel so desperately sad; being expected to give when you are feeling so completely empty, makes this an extremely difficult time of the year. And yet, if we can get past all the glitz and the glitter, Christmas brings us a message of comfort, peace and hope. It tells us of a God who loves us enough to enter our world of troubles and trials; who has become one of us and who has experienced our pain; who has defeated evil, sin, death and the devil so that we might have hope and enjoy new life.
When God created human beings he created them for a love relationship. The only way that relationship could be real was if people had the possibility of rejecting God. And that is what happened. Humankind rebelled and disobeyed and entered into sin. It is because there is sin in the world that there is sickness, suffering and death. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that your suffering is a direct result of some particular sin. I am saying that all of these things exist because sin is in the world. Because of the existence of sin, Stuff Happens. But God is able to redeem every situation. God has promised us that "Neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39)
We may feel desperately alone, but Jesus has promised to be with us saying, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
We may feel weak and completely unable to cope, but God tells us through St. Paul that, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." ( Phil 4:13)
It is when life brings us to our knees that we are in the best position to see our need for God. It is from our knees, from that dependent position, that we can look into the eyes of God and see compassion, feel love and discover the support God gives us. The message of Christmas can give us hope and strength because it tells us that God loved us so much that he became one of us.
Part of the problem with Christmas is that we have romanticised it and sentimentalised it to the point that we miss its realities. God sent his son to be born, not in a sanitised, cutesy little stable warmed by the bodies of freshly washed, fragrant smelling animals. It was a dump. It was barely better than being in the street. You can bet it smelled in there and you had to watch your step or the smell would be attached to your sandals.
Mary was called to be the mother of the saviour, but God did not save her from the stigma of being pregnant without the benefit of marriage. This birth took place far away from family and friends and it happened under awful conditions. We sometimes lose sight of that as we celebrate this season to be jolly.
We also often fail to remember that this baby was born to die. Unless we see the shadow of the cross falling on the crib we are not seeing Christmas clearly. Jesus didn't enter this world just to be a cute little baby, he came to suffer and die on a cross so that ours sins might be forgiven and so that we might be saved. Because of the death and resurrection of the one born at Christmas we have the hope and the promise of new life. It is a new life that begins now in knowing that God loves us and cares about us. It is a new life that continues throughout eternity in God's kingdom where "God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:4)
The former things have not yet passed away so our tears still flow, but we can find comfort in the fact that God cares about us. Even though death still exists we can find hope in God's promise of new life. Pain still racks our body and soul in this life, but God does give us the strength and courage to get through it. God promises that it will get better.
When we have been deeply wounded it takes time to heal. Most of the time there is still a scar that we carry for the rest of our lives. Eventually it doesn't hurt so much any more, but when we see that scar or feel it we remember the pain and the problem that put it there.
God knows the pain of grief for he watched his son die on the cross. Jesus has experienced the darkness of depression and loneliness for he cried out from the cross asking, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." Christ felt great pain from nails driven into his hands and feet and from hanging for hours on a cruel cross. Even though no one else understand exactly how we feel, God does. For God knows us better than we know ourselves.
Because God knows us and loves us, empowers and upholds us, we can grow stronger in the broken places.
Despite the difficulties that accompany a loss in this holiday season the message of Christmas is meant for you and for me. Just as the angels said these words to the shepherds, so we should listen to them today: "Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord." Amen.
Many thanks to P.Larson