Tidings of Comfort; Tidings of Joy
From The Sunday Page, December 10, 2017
This time of year we begin to imagine the journey that the Holy Family made from their home town of Nazareth all the way to Bethlehem in Judea. It stands to reason that the people of all the villages in the Roman occupied lands found that their everyday life was severely disrupted. Expectant mothers like Mary would have found their support networks scattered to the four corners of the wind. Many of the people that she would have liked to rely on would not have been available to her. They would have been miles away on their way to the cities and villages that their families came from. Many, like Mary and Joseph, would have felt bewildered and afraid. At the very least they would have longed for the comfort of a familiar face and the encouraging sound of a well known voice.
You don’t have to be a on the road to be counted in a census or a refugee like the woman and child pictured above to understand what it is like to be without a network of support during the holidays. For many reasons people find themselves far away from loved ones during this time of the year when there is such a strong emphasis on the warmth and joy of gathering together with family and friends. Reminders of it pop up in every magazine we open, every channel we turn to and every screen we click on throughout the day.
If you are fortunate enough to have family near to shower you with love and with gifts that are tokens of that love be grateful. But, remember also in prayer and in kind those who are less fortunate than you are. Take time to consider ways that your joy and gratitude can overflow and bless those around you. Can you purchase a gift for someone who wouldn’t otherwise receive one? Can you invite a lone soul to sit at your family table for a Christmas or New Year’s Day meal? Could your family forego the lavish holiday feasting in your home and, instead, together serve a meal at a community center? Can you invite someone to attend the Long Darkness service here? You are whole to bring wholeness.
If you find yourself alone for the holidays don’t think of it as a sign that God favors you less than those who dwell in comfort and are surrounded by parents, siblings, cousins and friends. God’s favor can never be measured by your outward circumstances. If you find yourself feeling lonely and depressed don’t regard it as evidence that God didn’t make you worthy of love. Neither can God’s favor be measured by the internal emotional landscape in which you dwell. Your aloneness and loneliness are not signs that you are unlovable. They are signs of the world’s brokenness.
This season brings both immense joy and deep loneliness. Both are ours to share.
In Advent Hope, Peace, Joy and Love,