Friday, December 24, 2010

I didn't expect to be crying....

....but there I was, not with gentle tears running down my face but great body-wracking sobs as I stood in the kitchen preparing the vegetables for tomorrow's feast. I was listening to the live broadcast of the service of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge, something I did nearly every year with my mum. She died 3 1/2 years ago, but the grief hit me this morning with a force that surprised me, and so, as a boy soprano sang the glorious opening to 'Once in Royal David's City' I put down my brussel sprouts and allowed myself to grieve again.

In Luke 1, Zechariah said 'In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.'

I used to think that the 'Shadow of Death' was a particular place or season of life, but now it feels like the shadow of death is always there with me, that grief is a thread that runs through my life, and at this time of year that is especially difficult. The songs of Christmas tell of 'the most wonderful time of the year' and a 'holly jolly Christmas'. There doesn't seem a lot of room for 'the shadow of death' amid the lights of Christmas.

But that first Christmas was fraught with shadows. Mary and Joseph, young, pregnant and without a place to give birth. A country occupied by a foreign army, a King slaughtering innocent babies all amid prophecies of conflict and pain...

...and so, I go to church and sit in the darkness waiting for the magic of Christmas to somehow touch my life. And it does. Not in an 'ignore your pain and put on a happy face kind of way', but in the realization that the tender compassion of our God will shine a light in the midst of the the shadows of death, that it's ok to attend to the shadows because by God's grace I will not be overwhelmed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes. The pain of loss, depression, unresolved conflicts, a scary diagnosis, etc. can (and often does) shimmer with unrelenting intensity at this time of year. Yet, for those who find themselves in these difficult places, the pain can be intensified by feeling totally out of sync with the happy Kodak moments the culture pushes and pushes and pushes.

I lost a love relationship this year, and was so glad I was able to take myself to a Blue Christmas Eucharist at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church at noon today. Those of us there felt heard, seen and comforted simply for being remembered and acknowledged in a very special way.

My day has been thrice blessed: first, by the King's College Lessons & Carols which have been a part of my Christmas life for decades; next by the Blue Eucharist; and now, by your blog post. Thank you, Peter.

Pat B.