As we get close to Christmas this year, I’ve been doing some reflecting. For me this year, it’s been challenging, both personally and professionally.
Personally, it’s been a year that hurt in some ways that I didn’t expect at the beginning of the year. This year, my family dealt with the unexpected loss of my brother. I told people that losing a sibling (even one much older) hurts in ways that you don’t really expect. When I go to University Hospital and make visits as a pastor, I think about the year that we spent there back in 2001(ish) as he recovered from an accident and eventually lost his leg. I didn’t expect that hurt, but yet it comes. This year my dad also gave us a good scare with heart surgery. There was a season where I was unsure that he would make it. Thankfully, God in His mercy, allowed him to recover and he is doing quite well.
Professionally, I have the blessing to lead a vibrant and growing church. Serving a church like this greatly stretches you though, and you can make you feel like you get it wrong more than you get it right, in regards to leadership. I’ve been pushed in some good ways, had some missteps, and learned a lot, but it is always stretching. I’ve made some choices that I believe are right, but you always second guess yourself. As confident as I appear, I am prone to second guess myself. You always wonder, what could I do different/better.
As I reflect upon these things, let me tell what Christmas means to me this year. What has become real to me this year is the power of the Incarnation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Not just in the good times, but in the challenging times. But here’s what I want you to hear. This is not the say that the challenges are not real. Or easy to overcome. Or even go away. The challenges you face are not something that can be overcome by just being positive (though that does help!). These challenges may remain.
And you know what? It will be ok. Because Jesus will remain. And we find that He remains in the good and the bad, the joy in the pain. My Jesus was present when my daughter made a public profession of faith this year. And my Jesus was present I drove through my hometown and could not stop crying because I missed my brother. Christmas doesn’t mean that the pain, the problems, or the hurt goes away. It means that Jesus never goes away.
That is my prayer for you this Christmas. No matter where you find yourself, may the song of the angels echo in our minds:
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Christmas doesn’t mean that the pain, the problems, or the hurt goes away. It means that Jesus never goes away. May that be true for us today and each day.