Tag Archives: pain

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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Rachel #adventbookclub

Matthew 2:16-18 (CEV)

The Killing of the Children

16 When Herod found out that the wise men from the east had tricked him, he was very angry. He gave orders for his men to kill all the boys who lived in or near Bethlehem and were two years old and younger. This was based on what he had learned from the wise men.

17 So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet Jeremiah had said,

18 “In Ramah a voice was heard
crying and weeping loudly.
Rachel was mourning
for her children,
and she refused
to be comforted,
because they were dead.”

 

Not the most pleasant of the Christmas passages!  Certainly not one we include in our cute nativity tableaux…

Yet very much a reality of life, as much today as then.

Angry threatened men (and women) still take out their fear and their need to feel superior on the weak, the fragile and the vulnerable.  People are still weeping.  For their children, their community, their parents – people they don’t even know.  Because suffering and destruction are their lot.

We hear a mothers cry.  The raw emotion of Rachel.  This is gritty reality.

There is no neat happy ending to this event.  It is just left as it is.  Platitudes do not help.  Sometimes we need to sit with the pain, the questions, the feelings of hopelessness and the fury – even the thoughts that God has brought it all about.  We weep with those who weep, because words are meaningless.

And yet…This is the world Jesus was born into.  The world he still inhabits.  That is the ending.  God is here with us.

Lord,
into the pain,
anger,
confusion,
questions,
terror
you were born.

Into a world
of cruelty,
greed,
envy
and murder
you came.

Little seems any different,
many feel lost,
afraid,
and threatened;
whilst others bully,
intimidate,
cause pain
and death – physical and emotional.

 Into this world Lord,
bring your peace,
your hope,
your comfort,
your life.

And equip me
to work with you.

 

Join us reading Walking Backwards to Christmas by Stephen Cottrell from SPCK Publishing this advent.  Be part of #adventbookclub, share your thoughts here, on your own blog (and let us know we’ll link to it), on Twitter using #adventbookclub or on the Adventbookclub Facebook page

Anna iii #adventbookclub

Luke 2:36-38 (CEV)

Anna Speaks about the Child Jesus

36 The prophet Anna was also there in the temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. In her youth she had been married for seven years, but her husband died. 37 And now she was eighty-four years old. Night and day she served God in the temple by praying and often going without eating.

38 At that time Anna came in and praised God. She spoke about the child Jesus to everyone who hoped for Jerusalem to be set free. 

Sorry carried away by Anna and all it means for us, but wanted to pick up this point.  On page 12, Stephen Cottrell uses the phrase,

My hurts and regrets are still there.  But now they are known and illuminated, integrated and healed

This, imho, is the wonder and the power of the gospel.  God doesn’t come with a magic wand and remove the difficulties and the past.  But he shines a light, his light, onto it.  It is no longer something hidden, something to trip us up, something to pressure us.  It is something that he is present in, alongside us.  In “allowing ourselves to be found” (also Stephen’s phrase) we can be changed.

I’ve writtern about this before, from my personal experience, both in the context of Lent here and here if you want to read them.

The crux of the matter is, that facing up to the reality is always better than living in fear that one day it will turn around and bite you. 

Lord I bring to you
my struggle,
my pain,
my despair,
my anger,
my frustration.

It sit with it
with you.
And I wait
as your unfailing love
and mercy continue
and help me to live

 

Join us reading Walking Backwards to Christmas by Stephen Cottrell from SPCK Publishing this advent.  Be part of #adventbookclub, share your thoughts here, on your own blog (and let us know we’ll link to it), on Twitter using #adventbookclub or on the Adventbookclub Facebook page