Tag Archives: anguish

Happy Christmas?

“Happy Christmas”, the ubiquitous greeting of the season (or even worse “Merry Christmas”).

When did we come by this insistence on being happy in life?

Many people are in a circumstance that is far from happy – but still we think they should be. Especially linked to the ‘perfect’ family Christmas.

But life is not like that.  People are in pain, missing someone, missing anyone, alone, hungry, sad, struggling with bad news or any number of other situations that mean they are not ‘happy’ – but that does not mean Christmas, or more especially God, is not for them or with them – but it doesn’t have to be happy.

Today happens to be the Feast of the Holy Innocents. A Day to recall Herod’s fury at being outwitted by the Magi and God and takes it out on the infants of Bethlehem:

Matthew 2:13-18 (NIV)

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.“Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,

    weeping and great mourning,

Rachel weeping for her children

    and refusing to be comforted,

    because they are no more.”

Rachel is weeping.  She cannot be comforted.  There is no comfort for a child ripped from its parents in whatever circumstances.

Culturally we are rubbish at acknowledging people’s pain and anguish.  We certainly don’t like public displays of it.  Much easier if people could at least play along at being happy.  But that is not acknowledging real life.  Rachel is weeping.  That is how it is.  Real life and emotion are allowed.  There is no sticking plaster, no chivvying to cheer up, she is comfortless.  That is her reality – and it is ok to be so.  A healing will grow, she will be able to live with the raw pain, but not today.  Today is a day of pain and raw emotion.  And God is in that.  He sits with it, with her.  God holds her and all who mourn, and weeps too.  Our pain is God’s pain.

Surely, church should be the one place where we should be able to be real and honest, to open up to how it really is; but we are not much better at it.  We should give space for however people are feeling – bad and good.

Christmas has long been a struggle for me.  I know I am far from the only one.  This year is even worse, the Circle of Life has gone very wonky.  Yes there is hope and promise – but not today.  “Happy Christmas” grates.  Yet to be honest I’m not sure how you phrase it better.

Why do we have to be happy?  Yes I am grateful that God is born in human form, but does that mean I have to be ‘happy’, fixed grin, false jolliness and the lot?  Surely if the good news of God born among us means anything, it means that he is with us in the good times yes, but also in the dross and pain.  That is what the coming of Jesus, and the power of it, means to me – that he is with me however I feel.

I’m with Rachel in her pain.  So are many others.  I’m musing on a culturally acceptable way we can acknowledge that, and get away from the assumption that just because it’s Christmas everyone is having a fabulous time.

So I wish you the ongoing love, hope, peace and comfort of the Christ-child.  God born among us.  God with us – whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in, whatever time of the year.

Thank you Lord
for coming to earth,
for coming to reality,
for experiencing human life,
good,
bad
and indifferent.

Thank you
that your presence is not just for good days,
but for how it is;
that I don’t need to pretend,
or put on a good show
for you,
because you know.

Thank you
for your presence
in happiness and joy,
but also in pain
and weeping.

May I walk
in your presence,
hope,
comfort,
and peace;
and know you with me
whatever the circumstances

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A Faithful God vi

The Plot against Jeremiah

18 Some of the people said, “Let’s get rid of Jeremiah! We will always have priests to teach us God’s laws, as well as wise people to give us advice, and prophets to speak the Lord’s messages. So, instead of listening to Jeremiah any longer, let’s accuse him of a crime.”

Jeremiah Prays about His Enemies

19 Please, Lord, answer my prayer.
Make my enemies stop
    accusing me of evil.
20 I tried to help them,
but they are paying me back
    by digging a pit to trap me.
I even begged you
    not to punish them.

Who can I cry to but you?
Who knows the reality
of all that is happening,
but you?
Who understands rejection,
false accusations,
having your help
thrown back in your face,
but you?

That is why I can turn to you,
cry out to you,
trust you,
because you have been to these places
and you are with me
as I face them.

Faithful God,
I cry out to you,
in my pain,
my anguish,
my fear.

Please God,
hear me,
answer me,
make it stop.

Faithful God

You’re Blessed

It is usually difficult to see the good in a situation you are in when it is difficult.  When our world seems turned upside down, we can feel anything but blessed.  Sometimes hindsight provides a different perspective, but not always.  Sometimes we just have to come at it from a different angle.

Matthew 5:1-12 (MSG)

You’re Blessed

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Much has been written about The Beatitudes over time, so I have used the version from The Message, it breathes some fresh air.  It is difficult to know what to offer to add to it.  Here Jesus is setting out the new understanding of life that following him will bring.  It is not about all the shiny things you will have, all the many riches that will be poured upon, health, wealth and happiness.  No, what Jesus is bringing is something way beyond that, much deeper – and much better.  Blessings running counter to popular expectation and understanding, and in that way being far more significant, life-changing and useful.

It reminds me in a way of the Covenant Prayer, finding God’s purpose and blessing in the ways we might not choose – in usefulness and in feeling useless, in pain and pleasure, in being busy and in feeling overlooked, in thinking we have everything and feeling we have nothing; but giving ourselves, wholeheartedly, to God and allowing him to do his stuff.  Letting God reach us, touch us, heal us, fill us, take us on a journey with him and allow him to use our lives.

Lord,
I offer myself to you.
In my pain,
my anguish,
my questions,
my emptiness,
my hunger,
when I feel bereft,
hurt,
abandoned
and used.
Work in me,
I pray;
and may I know
that I am blessed.

Praise God