I decided that I had something to say before the year is over.
Usually around this time of the year I start thinking back on the year, thinking about the difficulties and trials, hoping and praying for a better year next year. Stressing about everything still to be done before the year ends, dreading Christmas. That’s right. I secretly dread Christmas. Also our Christmas tree and decorations haven’t made it out of the basement yet.
A week before Thanksgiving, I heard the first Christmas song of the season on the radio. It was “Hark, the Herald, Angels Sing.” And of course I sang along. Loudly. I was overwhelmed by joy, reverence, and thankfulness that for a few short weeks the world will celebrate my redemption with me–whether they know it or not. Whether they believe or not. The story of my salvation is shared, if only by the occasional song, to everyone who pays any attention to the grocery store speakers. (I must point out here that I did not in fact sing out loud in the middle of a grocery store. I was in my car. Though I have been tempted on more than one occasion . . . ) I was transported out of my own cares, to give thanks for a Baby Who was born to die.
Deity in human form, salvation in a stable. Truly something to sing about.
In August, our church choir started practicing for our Christmas program. It was also the week I found out that my aunt was going to pass from darkness into light sooner than we had hoped. And let me tell you–singing those songs was heart-rending agony. “Joy, unspeakable joy! It rises in my soul, never lets me go.” How could there be such joy when my heart was breaking in pieces? The weeks that followed were difficult. Quick planning, waiting, praying, waiting a little longer. The desire for her to hold on at war with the desire for cessation of pain.
Even in those torturous moments of agonized waiting, it was there. Joy. It was at the funeral, the burial, the aftermath. It certainly didn’t take the form of happiness, though there was still laughter. There were tears, pain, grief. The only way I can describe it is confidence. The outcome is known–“the grave is swallowed up in victory.” Death is not the end, my friends. It is the great unifier, the enemy, the finisher of life. But it was defeated by a poor Middle Eastern Rabbi with a lowly following, the King of all who let it go so we could share in His inheritance. He brought our life from His death, our joy from His suffering.
Singing those words is hard every time. And that’s okay. And next year might be the most difficult year of my life. (It has some stiff competition, though, so I doubt it.) That’s okay, too. Tragedy shows us who we are. But really it shows us Who our Savior is. Love. Comforter. Fortress. Beloved. Kinsman-Redeemer. The King of kings, come to suffer so I can live freely. “Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!”