As we approach Christmas, we sing of the hopes and dreams associated with the birth of Jesus. We offer prayers celebrating the peace and joy that go with the arrival of Jesus. As with any child, birth is an experience of anticipation and hope. And this is magnified with the birth of Jesus.
We have so much to be grateful for as we think of the love and compassion that has come into the world through Jesus and his ministry. But as we reflect on all the light that Jesus brings, we still see so much darkness around us. Two thousand years plus after the birth of Jesus, why are people still greedy? Why do people still hurt each other? Why is there killing? How can we be letting the natural world as we know it collapse due to human activity and apathy? Why isn’t every child well fed, vaccinated, and well educated? Why are we still facing so many of the basic struggles of the human spirit that Jesus came to confront and to resolve?
We may feel much joy at the promise associated with the life of Jesus. But our hearts may be breaking over the sad state that we are still in.
But anyone who has been at a birth knows that it is a time of joy and tears. Laughter and crying. It is an ending. And a beginning. There is so much hope and promise but also the looming unknown. I remember an episode of the TV show ‘All in the Family’ where the son-in-law, Meathead, explains why he does not want to have children. He didn’t want to bring a child into a world with so many problems. And this was back in the 1970’s. There are people today who are opting not to have children because the environmental situation is so perilous that they don’t want to have a child knowing it will have to face such danger. And there are many other problems that children face today – school shootings, the internet, the economic system, racism and hatred. Many dangers! But having children that we love in our lives motivates us to take action to protect their future and do the right thing.
So, as Christmas approaches, do we laugh with joy or do we cry with heartbreak?
I heard a writer interviewed recently and he talked about how each day he finds that at some point he laughs. And he often cries. And he feels that both are part of experiencing life in its fullest. They go with being fully alive, deeply experiencing the many dimensions of life. So he sees both laughing and crying as good.
In the gospel of John, the writer has Jesus offer the promise of abundant life. Maybe this means feeling deeply. Feeling joy and delight and awe as well as grief and pain and disappointment. All of it. In its fullness. It’s richness. It’s depth. Being fully present and fully alive.
Laugh? Cry? Yes.
Note: I noticed that there was laughing and crying in church this morning. Maybe that’s what church is for. To help bring us back to life. To feel.
This is a complicated season. We want to be happy and celebrate and enjoy all of the festivities. But it is also a time to remember who is not celebrating. Who is struggling. Who is no longer with us. May our observance of Christmas remind us of what it is to be fully alive. Amen.