I sit in the glow of the Christmas tree, watching the flame of my prayer candle flicker. It reminds me to hold close in prayer those suffering this season. It reminds me of the Light of the world. I try to hush my rushing thoughts in order to hear the quiet voice of God.
It’s just a few weeks into December, and already I feel the temptation to collapse in a void of sadness. I forget how this happens every year. It seems as though suffering is magnified in the glow of the Christmas lights.
My friend’s dad was just diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Her voice broke on the phone when she told me, and I could hear both of our hearts cracking. I want to bubble wrap her and her family and hide them from all of this pain. But of course, I can’t.
Another friend of mine is in the middle of a divorce. Other friends are wrought with anxiety. I think about the people who are finding themselves this year without a person they love — a child, a parent, a friend. How they are learning to create space for loss and grief in the midst of others celebrating.
Pictures hang in my apartment exclaiming, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” But for many, I know, this sentiment can’t possibly be true.
Suffering does not cease when the holiday comes around. More often than not, it feels like it comes with a ferocity.
I stare at my nativity scene, sitting beside my flickering candle. A wooden barn, a star, a swaddled baby. Our Savior who came to sit with us in our suffering, to be present with us in our pain, to be Emmanuel.
Even in the midst of all of this suffering, there is Jesus. Emmanuel — God with us. His with-ness means He is here in this moment. This moment of despair or hope, of anger or confusion — His presence is the gift we continue to unwrap each and every moment of our lives.
If you are suffering this season, if you are lonely and on your own, if you are bent and frayed with grief and sorrow, gather close to the Savior, our Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Jesus who came to earth — fully God, yet fully man — who felt sharp shards of sadness, whose heart broke by the suffering He saw, who cried salty tears when His friend died. Gather close to Him, friend. He is holding this whole world right now. He is holding you.
If you are not suffering this season, pray for those who are. Don’t forget: this may not be the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. Create space in your heart to pray for those who are in pain. Maybe light a candle as a reminder to pray.
Or perhaps do something tangible for someone — give an ornament of remembrance to a person who has lost someone they love. Give a five dollar Starbucks gift card to a single mom so she can get a coffee with whipped cream. Bake cookies (or buy them — I’m not a baker!) for your neighbor and leave them on their porch outside so when they open their door they see a surprise.
We can partner with God and be an extension of His presence. We can’t possibly understand what everyone is going through this season, but we can create space and tenderness to be sensitive to others. When we slow down long enough to give space to another’s story, we can show them the love and presence of Jesus.
Emmanuel, God with us — always. Come be near us today, Lord Jesus.
If you are lonely and on your own, gather close to Jesus. He is holding this whole world right now. He is holding you. -@alizalatta: Click To Tweet