Tears at the Manger

  472 views

On any given Sunday, as God’s people trickle into the sanctuary, they lug along the baggage of their lives.  Some pieces are light and nimble, others are heavy and damaged.  With his simple directness, Ken Medema describes it this way, “to the gathering we are bringing love and laughter, grief and pain. . .”  (see Psalter Hymnal #259).

What is true on every Sunday will be magnified by the celebration, emotion and story of Christmas.  Everyone will be dressed in their festive best, but look closely--the slightly curved lips and muttered “Merry Christmas” won’t disguise the well of tears barely held back.

Why does Christmas expose so much pain? 

  • For some, it’s because it’s the first season without someone or the first season dealing with a dire diagnosis.  Maybe it’s just the day itself. My husband’s mom has been gone for 19 years and the grief is no longer sharp.  But her birthday was Christmas Day.  It’s hard to ignore her absence on that day. 
  • For many, it’s the Norman Rockwell-like expectations of family on this holiday that expose their own broken relationships: recently divorced, fractured friendships, estranged children, etc.
  • For others, it has to do with all the cute little kids up front and the focus on the Baby . . . and the empty cradle in their own nursery.

It is good and right that we sing “Gloria!” and “Joy to the World” this coming Sunday for there is no greater hope and joy than the incomprehensible truth that God came to dwell with us.  And those who ache from the bruises of life know that truth more deeply than most.  They have had to believe it when their lives have come crashing down.  Yet, they may not be able to sing it.  So we will sing the truth for them--with them.  But before we do that--before we ask them to muster the strength to join the community in worship despite their pain, perhaps we can join them in an honest prayer for hope in the midst of pain.   

So step away from your sermon, set aside the powerpoint and bulletin and music arrangements.  Think of those who hurt this year--the ones you know about and the ones who haven’t said a word.  Need some words for your prayer?  Here are tender phrases from Sharlande Sledge.  May the God of all comfort and peace bless the worship of those who sing and those who weep in your congregation this week.

Darkness 

God of heaven and earth,
in this drama of Advent and Christmas,
our lines do not follow the expected script.
Some of us are hurting from the inside out
as much as others are celebrating their joy.
Amid talk about fulfillment,
loss looms large.

Remind us that you come to us
as the Incarnate Christ
whether we have mustered the strength to light a candle
or decided to sit in darkness.
You reach out to us
whether we are singing jubilantly
or weeping uncontrollably.

We wait for you to come to us
where we are,
as we are--
numb,
grieving,
fragile,
coping,
out-of-sync with the season’s songs.

Punch a hole in the darkness
that swallows us
to let in a glimmer of hope.

Sometimes a pinprick of light is all we need. 

Posted in:
  • Worship
  • Blog
Image Credit

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.
Community Builder

Thanks for this post. It's a timely and needed reminder to be sensitive to those with pain. Although not mentioned, there is another kind of pain at Christmas felt by those who spend countless hours making 'Christmas' happen for others in worship, but who, by the time the day is all done, feel an emptiness inside because their busyness squeezed out any significant spiritual and emotional connection for themselves.
I'd like to reprint the poem in our church bulletin. Is this permissable, using the credits above?

The poem Darkness comes from a book titled Prayers & Litanies for the Christian Seasons.  It would be good to include the book title in the credits. The "c" above represents copyright--I'm sorry, I couldn't find the correct symbol on my Mac.  

I recommend this collection to all worship leaders and pastors who appreciate thoughtful, carefully crafted words for their own worship.  The poems also help me as starters for public prayers and sometimes--as this past week, I just use the whole thing, broken up with a sung response from the people:  Restore us, Lord and show your face and then we shall be saved. 

Community Builder

Thank you. I shall check out the book as well. Good resources are always appreciated.

© 2014 Christian Reformed Church in North America. All rights reserved.
For website questions or corrections, use the feedback tab at right or contact us.