When my little one was tiny enough to be rocked, I rocked her and sang to her before bed each night. She’s seven now and, truth be told, if you peer into our window at home you may catch me still trying that. During her second Christmas season, I sang carols to her as we rocked in her nursery rocker. When we turned the corner into a new year, she asked me to keep singing the songs of Advent that her two-year-old heart had come to love. So, until at least May of that year, I sang “Do You Hear What I Hear” every night. I think she might have been on to something.
This year I enter the holidays weary. It’s been a full year of trying new things, working hard, being brave, and facing things that still hurt. One of my favorite carols reaches into my current state with this phrasing of the Savior’s arrival: “a thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices.” Rejoicing from a place of weariness. That feels like a big leap, even if hope comes and promises to us.
The holiday season can crystallize any current circumstance that we don’t like and cannot control. It’s ironic: as the year closes and people gather, loss, disappointment, and loneliness can really come into focus. Cultural cheer invites joy for a few brief weeks, twinkle lights cast a glow on main streets, and familiar carols anchor us to our younger years. And in a hard personal season, rallying to this invitation can feel like a huge task.
So how do we walk through November and December when we’re sad, alone, or missing someone we lost in the past few years? How do we walk it when jobs are fragile or we’re marking time between diagnoses and prognoses?
The weight of the world lifts, around the world, for a few short weeks. What if our weights cannot? Then we walk home with them. We fall down with them. We ram them in all our anger right up against the strong embrace of a Savior who has and will keep bearing every single load we bear on Himself.
We can get really afraid to show up to celebrations in our pain, but we don’t need to live as if our hope, our strength, or our willingness to keep walking is of limited quantity. Those things we need to rejoice in weariness aren’t even ours to begin with. As we drag weary weight to God, with whatever amount of reluctance, we see Him there carrying us and our weights with sensitivity and strength that is relevant to the next thing we need to face. We give to Him the things that weigh too much, and He gives to us a place of safety and everything we need to keep walking the current season. Things like miraculous tenderness and laughter with a sworn enemy; grounding, visible on our faces, as we walk into an infusion center for chemo; or anonymous gifts left on our office chair or our doorstep that remind us we are seen.
Our lives are sustained by a God who is moved by suffering. He is not neglectful or out of touch in what He chooses for us. He always moves into our cries, bringing reason and ability to rejoice. Bring your weariness, your loss of heart. Emmanuel will surprise you and give you back a new song to sing this season.
Meredith joined The Barnabas Center staff in January 2009, upon completing her Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her Bachelors in Religion and Psychology from Furman University. She counsels, leads women’s groups and teaches a seminar called “Hope in the Darkness” for those walking with individuals suffering from depression or bipolar disorder.
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