Sunday, December 23, 2007

There's No Crying in Advent

This morning as I was sitting in church I started crying. It's not unusual. I cry through every Advent. This morning it happened when I looked at the schedule of Christmas services and saw the inclusion of a Longest Night service "for those whose days are not merry right now."

And I know there will be more.

I'll cry during the third verse of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" when the descant soars over the words, "Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; Jesus, to Thee be all glory given; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing."

I'll cry when we take communion on Christmas Eve.

I'll cry every time a new candle is lit on the Advent wreath.

I'll cry when I least expect it, at times that make no sense, and in inopportune places. I always do.

It's the hope that moves me to tears.

Christmas is hardly ever perfect. When I was younger I rarely spent Christmas with everyone I wanted to be with. My dad needed to be with his mother on Christmas, which meant that he was often with her while I went with my mother to be with her extended family. It was as perfect as it could be, but something was missing. When my parents divorced almost fifteen years ago, Christmas became even more interesting to negotiate. As Jay and I have lived far from family over the majority of our married life, we've always done the best we can to be with the people we care about at Christmas. And although it's never perfectly perfect, it moves me that we try so hard to make it as perfect as possible.

Somehow, I think, it's always enough.

What makes me teary is the fact that Christmas, for me, is the time when it becomes most clear that everything's a little bit broken. It's the time when I see that things just aren't exactly the way they should be, in a perfect world. And yet every Christmas, despite the imperfection, despite the brokenness, we still have hope.

All the imperfection is never enough to keep us from seeking the hope that comes from "God with us." All the brokenness won't make us cynical enough to stop believing that something as small and innocent as a child can change the world. Despite our hurt, our pain, and our rage, we still somehow find our way to the manger where we kneel to glimpse a sweet baby.

No matter how big the pain or how ugly the wound, we still stop long enough to hope that this baby will be enough.

My friend Jason set to music a text by Sophia Lyon Fahs. Part of the text is:
Each night a child is born is a holy night
Fathers and mothers-
Sitting beside their children's cribs
Feel glory in the sight of a new life beginning
They ask "Where and how will this new life end?
Or will it ever end?"

Each night a child is born is a holy night-
A time for singing
A time for wondering
A time for worshipping
No matter how big the world gets, no matter how confusing, we somehow find ourselves back peering through the crib bars, hoping. Not hoping that next year will be perfect; only hoping that it will be enough.

It's the hope that moves me to tears.


Christine said...

I had a big chuckle when I read the title to this post ... as just this last week my husband was moaning about something and I retorted with, "There's no crying in pastoring!!"

Michael and I did a reading today during worship. I think you'll like it:

Merry Christmas, Mary Beth. Still hoping our paths will actually cross one day ... ya' know ... in REAL life!

Gran said...

Would you believe I have spent most of my day crying?! Mostly for the same reasons you have mentioned. Your post didn't help much. I will drag myself through the Holiday trying to be the doting wife, daughter, mother, and grandmother with a smile on my face. I usually end up remembering that there are those with families that will never be together in part or in whole, and I thank God that I have my loved ones near enough to see them any time we choose. And we even like being with one another!

martha said...

Mary Beth, I love you! You're so great! Have a wonderfully imperfect Christmas!

Sarah said...

Thank you...

Kel Bel said...

I invariably tear up every Christmas Eve, and usually at some point on Christmas day, just like you said...when I least expect it, at times that make no sense, and in inopportune places. Usually I make up some "issue" with my contacts to hide the tearing up from my family, who already think I'm crazy enough :)

Merry Christmas! I hope Clare enjoyed her first :)

Darby said...

I just about lost it this year as all the candles were lit, K was standing on the chair next to me singing Silent Night right along with everyone! Very swee moment!

HP said...

Yeah, Advent gets me too. I cried during the Christmas Eve service...but luckily it was not my turn to preach, so I managed through it.

My sermon yesterday was about the disruption and messiness of Christmas despite our efforts to perform the perfect family event each year.

This is a piece you should publish....try Christianity Today or Weavings....actually, I think Weavings would love to publish this as next Advent Season rolls around.

Erica said...

Thanks for helped me think clearly about the sermon I was writing for December 30.