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Archive for December 8th, 2019

It rained … five out of our first seven days home. We returned to work, dealt with jet lag, exhaustion. The schedule was still too packed to do what, humanly, was most needed … mourn.

Saturday morning arrived like cool balm on a hot burn. The schedule open, the pace relaxed. Then it happened … the emotional processing of what the mind had been containing.

The sadness that is very real. The recognition of what I lost when my dad died. The acknowledgement of the earthly permanence of death.

How do we prepare for the Christmas season, when our heart is filled with sorrow?

On my way to work one day this week, I turned on the CD in my vehicle. It is my only Christmas music CD. As I reached to push play, I paused, specifically negotiating whether or not I was ready … prepared for Christmas music, or if it might ignite a teary downpour, leaving me to enter work looking like Tammy Faye Baker (I know, it’s a dated comparison). I was specifically fearful that Joy to World might be on the CD. Thankfully, Josh Groban’s, Noël was safe for my emotions on the edge.

But that song, Joy to the World, had already infested my thoughts, causing my memory to sing it, over and over, like the song that never ends.

Joy to the World, written by Isaac Watts, was printed in 1719 … three hundred years ago! It is a song which tells of the redemption of the world, through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus.

As I write this I wonder how it came to be a Christmas song, as opposed to an Easter one.

Yet, we cannot have one without the other. For the babe in the manger grows up to become the sacrifice on the cross.

And it is in this juxtaposition of images … newborn babe sleeping, man bloodied and dying that allows us to both mourn and celebrate at the same time.

It reminds me of our time at the funeral home (not two weeks ago), when we would feel the sadness of what we were doing one moment, and laughing to the point of belly ache the next.

Psalm 69:29-32 (Message) also speaks to such juxtaposition:

I’m hurt and in pain;
Give me space for healing, and mountain air.
Let me shout God’s name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.
For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.
The poor in spirit see and are glad—
Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!

How the Psalmist starts out speaking of their pain, their need for healing, then goes on to shouting praises, thanks to God … this praise in the pain is better than “blue-ribbon bulls”, or as Amy Grant sings, Better than a Hallelujah to the ears of God.

How do we prepare for the Christmas season, when our heart is filled with sorrow?

We sing through the sorrow, we celebrate through the sadness, we praise through the pain.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

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