Christmas is never easy. And yet, somehow, each year I seem to forget. I go plunging into the festivities all enthusiastic and excited only to be blindsided by the pain. I really need to remember. Perhaps I’ll add it to my shopping list this year–just so I’m not surprised when the grief hits.
Christmas, you see, is a grief anniversary for me. It was around Christmastime 8 years ago that my whole world fell apart. The church I’d grown up in imploded after the founding pastor was exposed as a long-term adulterer. There had been misappropriation of tithe monies, cover ups of domestic abuse and a culture of silence and complicity that in a matter of a few weeks, was rightly torn down. It was a necessary razing, a sudden and sweeping annihilation of an entire way of life.
That pastor was my grandfather. My own father was a full-time pastor in the church as well. The devastation this caused in our family is hard to describe. There were so many levels of betrayal that for a time, it completely silenced me. I simply could not believe that someone I had trusted so much as a man of God (and as my grandfather!) could live such a duplicitous, unholy life. The shame I felt was so severe, I did not speak or write about it for almost a year. Sometimes the only way to grieve is in silence.
And in the silence and darkness, God found me. I had turned my back on Him, but He never gave up on me. He was the one constant; a flickering candle of hope in the darkness of doubt.
I still struggle mightily with my faith. Many times I am filled with doubt and discouragement. So much of the life I’d known was irretrievably lost and broken beyond repair. There are still times I would like God to fix it all before I trust Him again. But this is not how He seems to work.
Instead, God has brought me to a place where I simply live inside the brokenness. There is no fixing. There are no solutions. And yet, somehow, God is there.
A few years ago I started calling Him “God in the Rubble.” My faith often feels scattered and fragmented. But still, God is there. God is there in the uncertainty and the fear, the brokenness and the doubt.
I sometimes wonder if that is perhaps a taste of how the Mother of Christ felt as she journeyed to Bethlehem to give birth. Her situation was precarious and uncertain, she didn’t know how things would work out. But in the silence of her womb, God was there.
For Mary, the birth of her child was a time of joy and a time of pain. She suffered and labored to bring Christ into this warring, fragmented world. And as she held Him to her breast, did she perhaps begin to understand….God is here?
In the scourge of their isolation, in the dirtiness of giving birth among livestock–the light of that Christ-child illuminated their darkness. God was there.
That is the message that gives me hope this Christmas despite living in brokenness–a brokenness without answers, without solutions, without fixes.
God is here.
Christ is my light.