Day twelve of a daily meditation, a practice of free writing on words of Advent this season...
From the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas tunes play continuously in stores and on the radio, and the Hallmark Channel broadcasts holiday movies nonstop in the countdown to Christmas. While this is the favorite season for a number of people, for masses of others, "It's the most wonderful time of the year" couldn't be further from the truth. This season has a way of resurrecting old pain and shining a spotlight on fresh wounds. Holidays in the wake of tragedy and loss are forever altered.
Writing on Advent every day has been surprisingly difficult. Once I do it, I feel filled up; but getting myself to sit down and listen for what needs to be said for the day, this is something I have to force myself to do. This is the first Christmas since my Papa's death where Christmas music and "getting in the spirit" doesn't grate on my nerves. It's my first Christmas as a married woman and the first Christmas not spent with my immediate family. And it's coming in the throes of a season of life that has wrung my heart in pieces.
It's a Christmas, this year, when I ache for the horrendous pain of others - parents who lost children, children who lost parents, spouses who lost the ones they love, families of the perpetrators of violent crimes, children and adults who are struggling to live and survive cancer or serious injury or disease, cities and villages that have been leveled by natural disaster, countries ripped apart by war.
Even for those of us quietly grieving losses unspoken. One writer said this on her blog: "Sometimes Christmas does this to me. Empties me out as I grieve lost years, yearn for different stories, ache to let my roots tangle back into…something…else."
And it's tempting, as a writer of faith, to want to wrap all this pain and grief in brightly colored, festive cheer and stick a bow of peace on top. But I can't. The best I can do is write the hard stuff with my eye on the hope, sometimes a flicker of light on the seas, that this is not all there is. This may be what is now, but it will not be the final chapter.
And this brings me to the words: Good news.
It's hard, in some cases impossible, to recognize good news when life already seems good enough. How true this is of the birth of Christ. Only those who know their dire need of him can receive his birth with joy and humility and gratitude. For them, his birth is life and light and cheer, even when circumstances and hearts may be weighted heavy, ripped through with suffering.
As the prophet Isaiah foretold of the Messiah's birth,
"The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land
of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined."
In the shadow of death.
In the land of darkness.
Here, light makes a difference;
here, eyes open to receive good news
and souls are breathed awake with life.