Be Merry. That's what our Christmas card says this year. I struggled with the phrase initially. I worried that it wouldn't read as a well-wish so much as a curt demand for cheer. But I believe in the sentiment and the gold, scripty letters didn't swirl in the way of any smiles so, in the end, I went with it.

In the past three weeks, a family member has lost her father, another her husband, and a friend his newborn son. In the past year, others have suffered similar significant losses, battled illnesses, endured hardships or disappointments, born the weight of intense pressure, struggled with addiction or depression.

My heart aches for these dear ones. 

And my family's card sits in their mailboxes, screaming, "Be Merry."

This year has meant great joy for many: new life, healing, reconciled relationships. That beauty and goodness exist at all here is evidence of God's grace. We rejoice with those who rejoice!

But there are so very many mourning. And we mourn with those who mourn.

Come to Earth to Taste Our Sadness

This world turns under curse, weary and groaning. She lies pining in sin under gloomy clouds of night. Maybe you feel it.

Many of our beloved carols sing of this sadness, but perhaps none so well as It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow

Grieving. Discouraged. Worn. Why would we sing of such states at the most wonderful time of the year? Because beyond the sentimentality of silver bells and sleigh rides, Christmas is about a thrill of hope for a weary world. The song continues:

Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The angel song. The first noel. "Fear not," the angel said, "I bring you good news of great joy."

The long, dark night was broken by the light of the angels, the light of the star, the Light of the World. The hopes and fears of all the weary years of waiting and longing were met in the baby in Bethlehem. The angel song is an invitation to find Him.

Humbled.

Poor.

A babe who would one day know sorrow and face death. The babe born to taste our sadness to save us from sadness.

Come and Cheer

Christmas is the time to celebrate that in our devastated state, God reached down with a lifeline of hope. We rest and remember. Even when our own wounds of grief are raw and fresh, we remember that He came - and by His wounds, we are healed. When we question how God could love us in the midst of such pain and tragedy, we remember that He came - and suffered to save. 

He came. Emmanuel.

And when the weariness of this world seems to be more than we can bear, we remember that He came - and is coming again!  

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,

When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Christ will come again!  And when He does, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain..." All things will be made new! 

Let Nothing You Dismay

In the midst of your profound grief or pain today, as you hurt or ache or weep, I pray your soul will feel its worth. I pray that as you remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day, you will find comfort and joy.

And in that spirit I say: May God keep you merry, gentle ones. Be Merry.