Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for the “Blue Christmas” Service reflection; December 19, 2014 @ 3 pm at Worton UMC

For the description of the “Blue Christmas” service along with some other details please click here: {CLICK ME}

We are in the holiday season and this time of the year tends to evoke memories. For most of us, most of the time, the memories are happy ones. Unfortunately the holiday season also reminds us of sad things like the loss of loved ones, friction and conflict within the family, and difficult life circumstances. We would not be human, if we did not have at least some sad memories.

Such sadness is in discord with the festive mood, bright decorations, celebrations, and sounds of Christmas carols that are so prevalent during this time of the year. It is not unusual for some of us to feel down or unsettled in the month of December.  It is not unusual for some of us to feel down or unsettled during this time of the year because we remember our Christmases past, we remember the times that we spent with the loved ones that we miss now and these memories make us sad….

The festive mood of the Christmas Season is rooted in the understanding that the very first Christmas was filled with limitless happiness and joy. It is based on our reading the first few chapters of the Gospels according to Luke and to Matthew and focusing on only one half of the story. Unfortunately there is a WHOLE other side to what we think is the familiar story of Christmas.

Most people living in the western culture know the stories of angels singing to the shepherds about peace on earth (Luke 2:8-20) and Wise Men from the East bringing gifts for the “newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

A far less popular story from the Christmas narrative is the story of King Herod ordering to kill all the male children younger than two years of age around Bethlehem (that story is found in Matthew 2:13-18). The first Christmas was also the time of mothers weeping and mourning for their lost sons, mothers whose pain was real, raw and deep (Matthew 2:17-18, Jeremiah 31:15).

Another story that we gloss over at Christmas is the story of Joseph’s anger and frustration when he found out that his fiancé was pregnant and he had nothing to do with it (Matthew 2:19). We do not think about his feelings of betrayal, his emotional pain and his courage to follow the Angel’s instructions and marry his betrothed in spite of these emotions (Matthew 2:18-25).

Another story that we gloss over at Christmas is the story of Joseph and Mary forced to go to Bethlehem to register for the census and how difficult it must have been for Mary to travel by foot in the last days of pregnancy (Luke 2:1-6).

The point that I am trying to make is that from the very beginning the birth of Jesus was surrounded by very human emotions of not only joy but also pain, not only elation but also sorrow. There were not only sounds of laughter and joy but also tears of fear and anxiety around the birth of our Savior.

When we assert that Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year” and insist that all must be sweet, bright, hopeful, and cheerful, we deny the reality that we live in a complicated and nuanced world. The presence of sadness and sorrow does not mean that the Christmas season cannot be truly happy. It means that happiness and joy cannot be separated or isolated from the harsh realities of life.

Today I want to suggest that the pursuit of happiness is about having faith that there is meaning in life and meaning cannot be removed from the realities of life. Meaningful lives include laughter and tears, anxiety and joy, and happy, as well as, sad memories.

The Christmas Season is about feeling the real joy of the holidays without separating it from sadness or anxieties. The Christmas Season is about recognizing that Jesus came to bring hope, joy, peace, and love to the world filled with injustice and pain.

The true story of Christmas is a story of the glorious mix of joy and fear, laughter and anxiety that brings meaning to all of our lives. Our memories are what make us into who we are. May the Holy Spirit of our Lord give us courage to recognize meaning in our lives and through meaning, to experience joy and happiness. That way we can experience what the psalmist described in verses 11-12 of Psalm 30:

CEB Psalm 30: 11 You changed my mourning into dancing.
      
You took off my funeral clothes
       
and dressed me up in joy
 
12 so that my whole being
      
might sing praises to you and never stop.
     
Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

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