A Holy Grief For Christmas…

My brother and I were hashing Christmas plans a few days ago, discussing various needs and desires in light of each others’ current circumstances. As we both admitted our weariness, he said something that struck me as profound. “Well, it is Advent… The season of longing.”

I have a lot of longings this Advent. I can relate to a countryside of Judeans as they longed for the Roman occupation to be over. For their economy to pick up. For the senselessness of a census to not interfere with their month. Mary’s longing to give birth with familiar faces and care. Joseph’s desire to offer more to God than a manger… Longing… even appropriate holy discontent.

To bring it closer to home… I long for some of my relationships to change for the better. I desire to feel stable and settled. I long to see healing in my own heart in ways that I can quantify. I long for a month of Sabbaths… but December isn’t a likely month for that kind of rejuvenation, is it?

Bitterness comes knocking. It whispers… Look what that family can do for Christmas… but you can’t, can you? Look how much energy they have to serve… do you? So far, God has something for you that doesn’t include being settled and stable for very long… maybe you are a slow learner. Clearly God is blessing them… I wonder why you don’t experience it like that? God healed others with one touch, two at most… hmmm… On and on into harsh oblivion.

Bitterness. Accusation. They invite me join them. Weariness offers the slide down to their lair. It is a stark place that magnifies legitimate longing and then twists my lack into something that could be stopped. It shouldn’t be this hard. Why are you suffering like this? I look around for the cause of my suffering. If I can’t pin it somewhere concrete, those dark twins invite me to ball my fist (discreetly, of course) and look to Heaven.

Advent… the season of longing. When, more than ever, all things should be right. Sometimes it’s hard to content ourselves with Advent as the season where things begin to be made right. Where our holy discontent can erupt in a wail of grief that all isn’t as it should be… and if Emmanuel doesn’t come to live among us, then we will surely perish from our suffering. Holy grief that keeps our longing directed at needing more of the Christ-child rather than the bitterness of reality. Grief loosens our tight fist to receive a Divine touch. Grief deepens our sorrow that all things are far from right.

What would it look like to be broken in this season of joy? I’m finding that brokenness and joy always come in tandem – Our joy can never exceed our brokenness and sorrow. This season I am working to sit in my longing and desire, letting it deepen and flow, without taking the hand of bitterness. I want to experience Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matt. 5:4

There is a children’s’ book we read periodically for evening worship called Tales of the Kingdom. A common refrain throughout the book is:

“How goes the world?

Oh, the world goes not well, but the Kingdom comes.”

The Kingdom has come and is coming. We live in the middle. There is grief as we grapple with the reality of the battle being won but not finished. It hurts. Let’s let our grief reach new depths this season of Advent so our joy in Emmanuel, the God who has come and is coming… can rise.

~ Timi

Have a response to Timi’s post? Share in the Comments below.

photo credit: Christmas Tree via photopin (license)


  • Chuck McGlocklin

    Reply Reply December 19, 2015

    I am often a Pollyanna, looking for and seeing the good in everything, with the exception being human nature. I have low expectations and then am pleasantly surprised when I see good in those I least expected it. My fault is expecting more from those who say they are Christian and do NOT see things as I do. God has been taking me to the woodshed on various occasions to pray for and be forgiving and gentile with those of differing temperaments.
    Thank you Timi for adding to that view that I can also grieve and suffer with those who suffer and agonize in prayer for the soon return of our Lord.

    • Richie

      Reply Reply December 19, 2015

      You are welcome, Chuck. I find God is gracious in bringing us back to our lack so that we can understand his heart more. I’m grateful but it’s hard. I too have been to the woodshed a time or two. 🙂

  • Maritza

    Reply Reply December 19, 2015

    Powerful! What glory in such inconvenient circumstances. Thank you for sharing this familiar perspective though I never have articulated it so well. Praise God for new beginnings. Can you not perceive it?

    • Richie

      Reply Reply December 19, 2015

      I do perceive it, Maritza. Thank you. I too am very grateful for new beginnings.

  • Sharon

    Reply Reply December 19, 2015

    Thank you for these words this morning! There are many blessings found in them for me today! May we each embrace the season of both Brokenness and Joy with Christ’s understanding!

    • Richie

      Reply Reply December 20, 2015

      You are welcome, Sharon. I’m glad my words were useful to you today. My your season be still deeper sweetness as you embrace all of what Christ has for you.

  • Jodi

    Reply Reply December 20, 2015

    Thankyou Timi! I am so FRUSTRATED with this world right now!! Been praying more and more that God will come QUICKLY! It seems like life gets so busy, especially this time of year, that my relationship with God takes the back seat and that feeble prayer is all I can muster in the evening. Thanks for giving me a quiet moment of reflection this morning to start the day. I miss you, my old friend:-)

    • Richie

      Reply Reply December 20, 2015

      I miss you as well, Jodi. I too find myself frustrated both by the world and who I am in it. I want to fight for the right things but often get caught up in my own little world without much energy left. I think it is good and useful when we can recalibrate each other to remember what we want to be about. Let’s do it in person soon!

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