The Christmas Season. We all long for a festive atmosphere to fall like fresh snow all around us. Christmasy magic. We all want the smells and tastes, sights and sounds to take us back and bring us together. This is the season of unexpected gifts, fancy parties, bountiful food, traditions, carols, well-arranged firewood, cozy drinks.
But in this same season, there are some who enter with trepidation. While the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year holds many moments of laughter, for the grieving ones this translates into times of disconnection, hollowness, a vivid absence of laughter. The hurting know what this season should mean. Hope. Heavenly Peace. Comfort and Joy.
For me this year, my longing for a meaningful and joyful Christmas is swaddled in depression and anxiety (I would like to write about this more, but I have not had the words, yet). My desire to bless others is laced with hesitation, so aware of my brokenness and fragility. I want to experience it all, but I feel bound by exhaustion and a limited capacity. But it is Christmas. I’ll still show up. I’ll join the merging crowd of shepherds and kings and everyone in between and draw near like a weary traveler. I’ll come to Jesus with the hopes and fears of all the years, thankful that He comes silently and humbly.
This season, this time, can I come empty-handed? I’ve come before with much to offer, armloads of beautiful contributions of worship and creativity and energy. This time I come more like a shepherd – tired from caring for my flock, poor, needy, heart sore, unfit for proper society. They came to kneel, not having had the time or resources to bring anything. And so I come.
As I reflect on the Christmas narrative, sitting here tearful, I realize this: a quiet star led the kings to Jesus and they had to work for it. Search hard, travel long with patience. But the shepherds, my people, they were invited by a sky-full of angelic beings. Stars – they had seen a bunch of those. Their eyes aren’t searching the stars, they are doing the work day after day. That night, they were made to look up, stand up, they were brought to their feet by brilliance and light. The message, the invitation, was clear and bright and unmistakeable. They were personally invited to the long-waited-for King.
This time I come more like a shepherd – tired from caring for my flock, poor, needy, heart sore, unfit for proper society. They came to kneel, not having had the time or resources to bring anything. And so I come.
Right now, this year, I need an unmistakeable invitation to draw near, even with empty hands. To come wounded, worn out, “overcome by distress and sorrow” (Psalm 116). To be overwhelmed with glory. To wait with head bowed and hands out for His favor to rest. To come to the Savior – baby born where animals dwell. The shepherds’ turf. Immanuel was birthed in a place where Shepherds felt at ease, where they belong. And they were personally invited. Maybe that means I can come too.
To only have to still myself, to kneel, to weep, to sigh, to pay attention and sense deep inside . . .
a thrill of hope,
the weary world, and this weary soul rejoices.