Loosely translated, Merry Christmas.  But more literally, and perhaps more importantly, rejoice, now well.  Now that God is with us, now that the Saviour has come, all is well.

 Rejoice.  I’m finding that heavy going this Christmas season.  I’ve had a disappointment and I’m mourning the loss of something I never really had.  And it’s made me feel abandoned by God.  And I’ve been reminding myself that God has not abandoned me, that nothing, in fact, can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.  But the joy … that’s been hard to find.

Tonight, I went to Christmas Eve service.   I entered the sanctuary wrapped in  a heavy cloak of sadness.  And I was greeted by two young women that I had the privilege of ministering to in their teen years and, over the last ten years, they’ve grown into peers.  One of them switched places with her mom so she could sit next to me.  Last week another young woman took me out for coffee to hang out and encourage me because she knew that I was struggling.  And so tonight as I was singing and thinking about the girls and young women I’ve developed relationships with, I started to smile because somehow, in some mystical way, through these women, God was saying, “I’m here”.  He was reminding me that He is Immanuel, God with us, God with me. 

I’ve been feeling like my heart is broken because it was already beginning to be in a place that I’m not now being allowed to go to.  And I’ve been suffering through the very painful experience of dragging it back here.  But tonight God reminded me that my heart is in these women, in these relationships and it always will be.  No matter where I go, and no matter where they go, we will always carry a piece of each others hearts because of the time we’ve spent learning, growing, laughing, praying, crying, and just hanging together.  And I know there will be more.  Wherever I am God will give me relationships with similar girls and young women because that is where my heart beats and pouring my heart into their hearts is what I’ve been given to do and is what brings me joy.

And so, when we sang in verse three of Angels from the Realms of Glory,

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.

I almost laughed out loud at myself.  Because I knew that one of the things that keeps the joy at bay is my tendency to over analyze everything, but especially myself.  I’m so busy trying to make sense of things that I forget to just be, and to remember who God is, to leave my contemplations and focus on the Light of heaven.

Then, my good friend, Jon, reminded us that the joy of the first Christmas happened in the middle of lives that weren’t perfect, that were in fact full of the pain and suffering that characterizes life on the planet earth, that the joy of the first Christmas happened in the middle of hearts that didn’t fully understand. 

God with us isn’t about understanding everything.  It’s about God.  With us.

And so I understand a little bit better how Paul can describe himself along with his fellow servants as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.  Because that’s what I am tonight.  And it’s part of the mystery of God with us.  Of Joyeux Noel.

“… if we cannot sanctify our present lot, we could sanctify no other” –J. Martineau

and yes, Jon, I was making notes for a blog post during the service …

Go here to read more of Jon’s advent musings.