On December 17, 2011

The Tears of Christmas

It’s been one of those weeks. The kind that come along every now and then in life, where creation seems to be screaming more than groaning.

This week, a child with Leukemia who we’ve prayed and fasted for, has taken a turn for the worse. A friend and co-worker at Highland just had his mother pass away, and for reasons that I am not ready to go into today, Leslie and I spent a good part of this week in a hospital room, grieving our own personal stuff. It’s was just us and the sounds of an occasional intercom and much waiting.

As a pastor, I’ve spent a lot of times in Hospitals, and a few of those times it was due to something personal, sometimes those are great joys and sometimes they are not. This time was not.

I’ve referenced over the past couple of weeks that USA Today said that, on some level, a fourth of Americans battle with depression around Christmas time. It’s when our American expectations for a happy life are amped up and we find the discrepancy between the ideal and the real. So we think about lost dreams and hopes, what our lives could have been, and then we look in the mirror and realize what they have become.

Or maybe it’s for more than that. Maybe this is the first (or fifteenth) Christmas without her. And that inside joke that you always shared together, just isn’t possible any longer. And that table that you’ve shared for a lifetime of celebrations now has an empty chair.

On the front cover of a National newspaper a couple of weeks ago, there was a letter to Santa written by a 10 year old boy. But this letter wasn’t for the latest PSP games, or a new bike. It was for his dad to get a job. The article went on to say that this year more than any other there will be present-less families because there are job-less parents.

I was talking with someone a few days ago about some of the personal stuff that I am going through right now, and as I talked I had this profound realization that perhaps this isn’t actually that bad of timing. If the Jesus story is true, than Christmas is actually the best time to suffer. Sure it might be more difficult because all of the lights and smiles seem to ignore your pain. But the one who we are actually celebrating is the one who knows what Christmas means the best.

God enters the mess.

The first Christmas was violent, and bloody, filled with risk and danger. It seemed like the whole strange plan of God was hanging by a thread. And if you are thinking about it, you realize that this was actually the way Jesus’ entire life went.

One turn after another Jesus is drawn toward the ones who are hurting, and with great joy mingling with great sorrow, he enters into it. Most of the time he reverses their immediate causes for suffering, sometimes he weeps with them, but he is always with them. And then…when evil finally draws its ugly head fully onto the life of Jesus. He doesn’t do for himself, what he found so easy to do for others. They even taunted him to “save himself.” But he stayed, he endured, and he emptied it of all it’s enduring power. In the words of Paul, he took away it’s victory.  He took away it’s sting.

For me, a great metaphor of Christmas (especially this week) has been the thief on the cross. Jesus is undeservedly going through the same thing that he is. And Jesus talks him through it. He tells the thief that “Today you will be with me in paradise.” But the subtext is that right now I am with you in Hell.

Death sucks. There is no getting around that. And with every funeral, or miscarriage, or diagnosis of cancer we are reminded that the world isn’t supposed to be this way. It ought to be different. But Jesus entered the world the way it was, and slowly gave us a reason to hope by standing with us while we suffer.

That’s the thing about Christmas for me. I realized that I have a sense of entitlement about this time of year. I should get the present that Men’s Heath says is at the top of every man’s wish list. There should be snow on Christmas Eve (a true miracle in West Texas), and there should not be any grief. But in the words of Randy Harris, “There is so much suffering in the world, why shouldn’t each of us have to bear a part of it?”

If you find yourselves suffering, maybe it’s not because you aren’t following God the right way, maybe it’s because you are. The Scriptures seem to show a plot in which the people who are closest to God are the ones who suffer the most.

Starting with Jesus.

So maybe this Christmas is difficult for you as well. Take heart in knowing that means you might get Christmas better than anybody else. You might have a glimpse into what the first Christmas was like, and much of the Christmas’ afterward. The world is groaning for the redemption of Creation, and we must bear in part of the suffering of the world…Knowing that Christmas is God’s promise that human life matters. That he stands in solidarity with us.

And so maybe this Christmas if you weep, you will find that there are tears beyond your own, they are the tears that are for the healing of the world.

And they started at Christmas.

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  • Anya Saldana

    Jonathan, I enjoyed reading your blog today.  Lots of truth.  Blessings of our Father to you and your sweet family!  

  • todd

    Well done Sir.

  • Mike Hopkins66

    A very good lesson shared! Blessings and peace to your family for whatever personal trials you are experiencing too!

  • Marsha Patrick

    Bless you and your AWESOME! family. I love and miss you guys a LOT!

  • Sue Taylor

    I needed this today.  May God bless you and your family. 

  • http://twitter.com/pcunningham3 Philip Cunningham

    Fine entry, Jonathan

  • Champion

    Oh how timely your words to us are. Thank you for being able to say these things to us, especially when we can’t even find what it take just to breath. Mike Cope taught us that the church may have to be our ventilator at times like these. Thank you for being our spokesman. We love you Jonathan. The Champions

  • Cindy Williams

    This is awesome, Jonathan! I’m going through chemo right now and this so ministered to me. I cried, healing tears. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  • becky porche

    Simply inspired…thank you for wording our feelings so well. We love your family so very much and are thankful you are here!

  • Steve And Donna

    Experiencing hurt and disappointment has been my best training ground for emphathy, compassion, and mercy.   Sometimes I’d like to shout that “I get it!” thinking that might spare me additional opportunities; but I accept (don’t like it though) that we do live in a fallen world and ever once in awhile, it’s my turn to suffer.  “Why me?”  “Why not me?”
    Thanks for putting words on our “amped up expectations for happiness and the discrepancy between the ideal and the real”!  We love your family and pray you feel the tenderness of God in the midst of pain.

  • Kathy Morris

    Your tender words touched my heart. I grieve with you in your “personal stuff.” There are times we think we truly can’t breathe another breath. These past couple weeks have encompassed one of those times for our Highland family. It breaks my heart that you and Leslie are included in those occurrences. May the calming balm of our LORD’s love and strength pour over you, giving you respite and healing. Thank you for your words, Jonathan. As others have said, we love you and your sweet family so much and are so grateful you are with us.

  • Lauren Cunningham

    Reading this was wonderful for me right now. I’ve really been grieving for the Lowes the past several days. Honestly, I can’t dwell on it too much. I’ve prayed for them through many tears and questions.Through all my grief though, my daddy has reminded me, “Lauren, you don’t know the end of the story.” That truth has been hard to hear, but, it has been a much needed truth. I’ve cried out and grieved for all of the Highland kids who have fervently, faithfully, and fiercely prayed and believed for healing for Liam. I am so thankful for your heart. I’m so thankful that you are living authentically. Thank you so much for a post that infuses a huge dose of hope in the midst of the grief! I love you and Leslie so very much. I’m contending for you right now. Holy Spirit has placed your faces on my spirit the last several days. When that happens with anyone, I just pray. Rest assured you are being covered right now and always.

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thank you Lauren. That means a whole lot. I’m glad that you are in Leslie and my life. 

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thank you Kathy, this is one of those seasons that makes you look forward to the Resurrection even more. Thanks for your encouragement!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks y’all! That is exactly what we are going through as well. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Mrs. Becky, Leslie and I are praying for your family in your season as well. Blessings on this week. 

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thank you for sharing that Cindy. I hope that it goes well, blessings on your holidays, and thanks for the encouragement.

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    That’s a great way to say it. The church as a ventilator from time to time. Thanks for your encouragement! 

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Philip!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Sue! You as well!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Hey Mrs. Marsha! Thanks and we miss y’all too!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thank you Mike!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Todd!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Anya, so good hearing from you! Hope all is well in your life!

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  • Leslie Thomas

    Good words. Thanks for this post.

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