It’s Christmas Eve. The house is quiet, the lights are dimmed, and my Facebook feed is filled with smiling faces of people I love. Joy to the world! But tonight, I’m thinking about the people I love who are NOT showing up in my Facebook feed. It’s been a hard year, Love. I know Christmas intensifies the pain. and I’d be honored to just sit with you for awhile tonight.
I’ve found myself reflecting often on a simple 4-letter word this Christmas. Not “love” or “hope” — perfectly appropriate Christmas words — but “with.” As in, Immanuel. God WITH us. Not available to us. Not high above us, looking down. Not thinking of us. God WITH us. Sitting beside us. Holding our hand. Wiping our tears. Wrapping us in a bear hug.
If I had been Master of the Universe, I’d have done things differently. I’d have purged the world of sin and suffering NOW. I’d have rained down judgment on the evil and brought justice to the oppressed NOW. So many times during this painful year, my heart has cried out, “Fix it, Jesus!! Fix it NOW!”
I don’t have perfect understanding, but I trust the Master of the Universe whose plan to “fix it” came in the form of a baby in a manger. It would have been easier to right all the wrongs with a simple zap, but instead of removing our pain and anxiety, he entered into it. God with us. Immanuel. And tonight, he and I are having a conversation about you.
“Jesus, L and J and M and T just lost a parent to Covid-19. Memories of Christmas past will be tinged with pain and loss this year. Will you put your arms around them? Will you bring to mind sweet memories of that missing parent and remind them that death has no power over a parent’s love?”
“And, Jesus, J and K and B and L are learning how to single parent this year. The lights of the tree stir longings unfulfilled. Little eyes look to them for Christmas magic, and they dig deep to find some. Lord, will you give them some quiet moments this holiday season? Will you speak into the quiet and reassure their lonely, anxious hearts? Will you remind them that nothing is too hard for you, that they cannot mess up enough to turn you away? Be near them. Give them hope and a high five. Give them belly laughs with their little people. And will you tuck them in tonight with the tenderness of a loving father?”
“And Lord, my new friend K … well, babies make her cry. This Christmas, she’ll light a candle for each of the three precious babies who died in her womb this year. Oh, Jesus, you know the empty ache in her heart and arms. Will you hold her? Will you whisper hope to her fragile heart? Will you give her joy even in her pain?”
“Oh, and Jesus, gainful employment would be an awesome gift for A and R this year. It isn’t just the missing paycheck and mounting bills. It’s the joy of work, the passion of using your gifts in meaningful ways. Please calm their anxiety, lift their chins, and let them know you’ve got this.”
“I’m thinking of D & B, Lord, who just buried their oldest son. He was their caregiver, the one who did all the things their aging bodies can no longer do. He was always there, and now he’s gone. Will you sit with them awhile? Will you reassure them if they’re anxious, comfort their sadness, ease their loss?”
“And Lord, Alzheimer’s took C at the very beginning of her golden years, when she should have been enjoying her grandbabies and retirement. R and S and T will be missing her this year. Will you bring to mind happy memories of Christmases past to help them feel her presence?”
“And, Jesus, my heart is breaking for K, who just this week lost the man she loves. After years of faithful single-parenting, you gave her M. What a joy he was to her! And then Covid. Lord, if she’s angry, who could blame her? When she buries him Monday, will you cover her with your wings? Will you give her unreasonable peace and overwhelm her with grace? Will you carry her when her knees buckle? Will you bless her faithfulness and fill her with hope?”
“And Lord, you know the dreaded “C” word is on the hearts and minds of T and N and R and K. Whether in between treatments or waiting for pathology reports, cancer is the unwelcome houseguest who just won’t leave. Will you give them a reprieve from physical pain and give them your peace that passes all understanding?”
“And sweet Jesus, will you be especially near to R and S, who buried their 3-year-old angel last month? All the light went out of their world with the sudden and inexplicable loss of this precious child. Lord, it’s too much. Our hearts cannot bear it. And yet, the sun comes up each morning, and we must learn to live again. Will you sit with them awhile this Christmas and hold them close?”
“Oh, and Jesus, tiny Baby L in the Nashville NICU…please heal her. Please, Great Physician, will you give her doctors wisdom? And will you hang out with her grandparents, D and N, for awhile tonight? Becoming a grandparent for the first time isn’t supposed to be like this. Quiet their anxiety and give them the strength and wisdom they need to support their daughter and son-in-law. Please, Jesus, let baby L bring years of joy to this faithful family.”
“Oh, Jesus, thank you for choosing to be WITH us. When you took on flesh and came into the muck and mire of our messy world, you knew what you were signing up for. Sweet baby, you knew you’d grow up to become a Man of Sorrows, well acquainted with grief, despised and rejected by men. And still you came. You are our hope, our light, our world. Until you ultimately fix it, Jesus, thank you for just being WITH us. The weary world does indeed rejoice! We love you. Merry Christmas.”