Grief amidst the Joy
It may be a bit early in the year to start thinking about this and I am sure there will be a few groans, but today’s reflection is about Christmas! I am not talking about the commercial Christmas with the John Lewis adverts, turkey, tinsel, trees, and gifts, but the true and real Christmas, the celebration of the birth of a baby.
This baby was anything but ordinary, last week (September 30th) Rev Jane reflected on his mother, Mary and her faithfulness and transformation. Most of you reading this will know the story of Jesus, how God so loved the world He sent His son to come and save us. We have all sung about the donkey that carried his mother, the town of Bethlehem where he was born, the 3 kings travelling to see him, the shepherds watching their flocks, that little baby in a manger, we know how the story goes and we understand the impact this had, we are forever thankful and grateful that God did this amazing thing, that would change the world forever! In fact, without that baby, Jesus, I wonder where we would all be, what would our lives be like?
A couple of years ago the home groups used Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s book, Walking Backwards to Christmas for their Advent study. This book moved me in a way that I did not expect, it changed my perspective, moved me out of my comfort zone and reminded me that so often when recalling events, we can cut out the parts that make us uncomfortable.
In Bishop Stephen’s book he weaves the biblical text into the works of his imagination, to help us identify more deeply the events that surrounded the birth of Jesus. In his introduction he says “ I hope that my book does what good books can do, which is get underneath the skin of a story and begin to tell it in such a way as we can see ourselves in it, aiming to uncover the complex web of motive and response” It certainly did that to me, there were a few times when reading it I had to put it down, move away and process the enormity of what I was reading. It opened the scriptures to me in and brought them to life.
Each chapter is written from the perspective of different people in the Bible. We know that Herod was a king who did not want his power to be taken away from him, when he heard from the wise men that a new king had been born that fulfilled the prophecies, he was scared, he wanted to stay in control and was willing to carry out the most unthinkable of acts to remain in his place of power!
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more’
In chapter 2 of his book, Bishop Stephen tells us the story of Rachel, the fear she had, the raw uncontrollable grief and anger. The picture he paints is of streets where all you can hear is screaming, wailing, grief and blood as every baby boy, 2 years and under was callously slaughtered. As Herod’s men came and took the lives of those innocent children, the pain must have been too much to bear, it would have been physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The events would be something that those families probably never recovered from. I should think that for those families, hearing that a new king had been born and prophecies had been fulfilled would have been of little or no comfort to them, what use is a saviour of the world, when your own world has been ripped apart?
Sometimes in our eagerness to celebrate Christmas we gloss over and forget the true price paid by so many because of that very first Christmas. Ok admittedly I am not suggesting that nativity plays should detail the full horrors, but there is a need to acknowledge loss and grief and not brush over it only including the parts we think people want to hear. Just as Rachel grieved and sat in her place of despair, so should we at times. It is often at those time when we feel that God is far away, or that He has forgotten us that He comes closer, holds, and consoles us, although our pain and sorrow may mean that we are not able or ready to acknowledge that. It may not be until much later when we look back on events that we realise that God had not left us alone, He is faithful and true to His promise. In the same way, we should also find ways to help each other through grief and pain, to love people when they have no energy or desire to love us back, we need to find ways to open conversations and love others and ourselves even through the darkest of days.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness month; we are also coming into the season of Remembrance. In these unprecedented times we are all living with grief and loss in one way or another and it is right for us to remember, let us speak the names of those we have loved and lost, may their memories bring us smiles of happiness and warm our hearts, and as we let our tears of sadness fall, we ask that like the waters of baptism they will bring healing and life into our times of pain. When the light seems to go out for those around us, help us to let them lean into us and share the glow of the light we have within us, through that tiny baby, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
If this has been difficult for you and you would like prayer, or to talk to someone please get in touch.