It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the reason for the season. Is it though?
Feels more like ’tis the season for unmet expectations. Combine those unmet expectations with Covid restrictions and it feels even more difficult to find reason for our weary world to rejoice.
Whatever hurt you’re facing – loss, grief, financial struggles or isolation – it hurts even deeper around this tender part of the year. Without the usual bustle of holiday parties and traditions; it may feel easier to numb out.
Rather than running away from the pain, hit play and listen in.
This Christmas episode of “Becoming Whole” offers a deeper way to understand the reason for the season.
And yet, I think this year offers us a real opportunity especially as we’re all in this together to face the reality, to wrestle with the reality, to be mindful of the reality that this is precisely why Jesus came.
You who are suffering, you are the reason for the season.
You who are sinning, and wrestling to get free; you are the reason for the season.
You who are lonely; you are the reason for the season.
You are why I came. -Jesus
There is great cause for celebration. Even in our soberness and sadness and loss and whatever else is going on; there is light.
He came for me for this loneliness, for this sadness.
Willingness versus Willfulness: Willfulness fixates on the expected outcome, circumstance or person. Willingness focuses on Jesus.
Try praying: “Help me to fix my eyes on you Jesus and not on an outcome or expectation. Help me bring myself fully to you. Give me eyes to see what you’ll show me. I accept your invitation in love.”
Click for Full Podcast Transcription
Everyone, this is the last week of Advent, we are nearing Christmas. And I know several years we’ve done podcasts, we’ve talked about just the immense pressure that people can feel this time of year to make this time of year, the most wonderful time of the year, where all things are merry and bright. And you can pick your own Christmas carols to kind of summarize that. A lot of years, we’d look at advertisements that are that are playing on line with a print playing on TV and kind of compare our own lives to the difficulties that are the wonderful things that seem to be having for other people. And yet, I think this year feels a bit different for most of us. It would you agree with that?
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s been a heaviness for so long, you know, kind of an uncertainty and a heaviness across the world, and certainly in our country. And I think people are feeling the pressure of that the, you know, kind of building up of that, and bringing that into the Advent season.
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I think most maybe present for most everyone who’s listening will be the reality that, at least here in the United States, we are, we are locking down again, we’re being strongly encouraged not to gather in groups for Christmas, not to gather even at church for Christmas, and, and some people will, will have different gatherings of different kinds. But inevitably, for most everyone, it will look different. And there will be people who won’t be gathered around the table, even just for the simple reason of, maybe they don’t want to travel or they don’t want to be present. So it does feel different. And I feel the heaviness of it. And we want to offer in this podcast, just a bit of hope. Not a campy hope, not a not even a hope that says hey, you know, Buck up, there’s a vaccine, things are gonna get better for next year, we want to look a little bit deeper than that for these few minutes and kind of dive into that. But before we do, I think it might be helpful, just as in a spirit of fellowship, to just name some of the things that I think are heavy for people this year, we’ve named a couple already. The lack of the people missing in our church gatherings or missing church gatherings, if we’re doing virtual church, virtual church may be great. But it’s not that great. That’s missing something. I think a lot of people have experienced COVID firsthand, and many of our listeners have experienced loss from COVID. Other things you’d add to that, that, you know, people are experiencing that you’re kind of sadness, as you may be experiencing with your kit.
Yeah, there’s been a lot of loss for myself and for people in my family. And so I my hearts are really tender, about the loss of loved ones at the season, and I think that’s, that’s just so dramatic. You know, when you lose somebody, anytime it’s so dramatic, and when you lose somebody this near to a secret time of year, I think it’s just particularly just difficult. I think there’s also I’m aware of family tensions, you know, that can become more pronounced over these times, friendships that might be estranged, or again, under tension. And I think there’s just a lot of those things that become more again pronounced it within this delicate time of year. So those are some of the thoughts I’m having and experiencing.
There’s kind of a collision of, of what’s the word, having a brainspace moment here, but collusion between kind of what we expect or x out there is expectations for this time of year. And the reality of this time of year, or our expectations for this time of year and loved ones expectations for this time of year, this is commonly a time of year where there it’s almost like waves that hit rock, you know, just bam, there’s just there is turbulence that we experience and then add to that COVID and that just the I think the real good but difficult and, and in some way is bringing people together in some people’s drive driving people apart some of the political or racial tension that’s come up. I mean, you know, anytime there’s conflict that comes to the forefront, the hope is that it’s going to resolve in us in greater unity, not just a surface peace, but a deeper peace. But we’re the we’re not there yet. I mean, we’re in the midst of really sorting through like, hearing each other trying to get there and and politically speaking, I’d say, I’m not even sure we’ve really surfaced, at least in our country, what’s really going on and what we’re really angry about and wrestling Over I think we’ve their talking points and issues that people keep throwing at each other. But that doesn’t really explain the divisiveness.
Yeah, that’s it’s all so real and so intense. And then I’m also thinking about financial situations for some, where, you know, some people are really, really struggling into such a degree that they don’t know how they’re going to get from one paycheck to the next in a normal situation, and then throw in the expectations of Christmas, and just the sadness and stress of that. So there’s just so many things that that can be in play at this time. Yeah,
yeah. I’m thinking more on a more personal level, kind of zooming in on the Glazer family right now of, of some family sadness. Yeah, that just wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about in this podcast at this point, but to some, some places where it’s just not resolved stuff. And that’s hard. I think also have some friends who, who are going through some really very challenging relational loss right now, that is just weighing on my heart. And in this, and this is where I don’t want to can’t be, I want us to keep our feet on the ground here. Because I think that’s something about the way that we’ve approached Christmas. In, I don’t know when it started. But there is something that gets campy about our approach, and even our expectations about Christmas, where we kind of untether the most wonderful time of the year from the reality that in this world, we will have trouble. And there will be persecution, and there is still sickness, and there is still sin. And yet, I think that this year offers us a real opportunity, especially as we’re kind of all in this together to face the reality to wrestle throughout it to be mindful of the reality, that this is precisely why Jesus came.
So I think that’s so poignant. And how amazing that we lose that into the suffering into the mass is why you came.
Yeah. So it’s, it’s I mean, you can look at it through that grid. And you can almost say, like, wait a minute, why? Why do we always run from what makes this time of year hard, we kind of look at those things as Oh, they’re getting in the way of the real meaning of the season, they’re getting in the way of the merry and bright and the most wonderful time they’re getting in the way. And the reality is like, no, that those are right at the center of why we have this season at all, why Christmas matters to us. Because Jesus who saw our sin, and our suffering, and our separation and our sickness, and our solitude, and loneliness, he who saw our real condition, said, I’m not going to stay far away from that I’m not going to get I’m not going to tell you to ignore it and just have faith. I’m going to enter right into it. And I’ve thought even a little bit about the first Christmas, Mary and Joseph in their forced journey by the military that was occupying their land at the time they were forced to go and to Bethlehem while she was pregnant. I can’t even imagine that on a donkey on foot.
Well, she she tells him that she’s pregnant, and the Holy Spirit and he’s like, Ah, what? You know. And so, he fortunately, you know, by God’s grace and mercy, and it gives Joseph a dream and he tells them, you know, the truth and but, you know, here’s Mary suffering all of this humiliation and, and Joseph as well. And they, you know, they might find the truth, but they still got all of this tension and stress and uncertainty in their relationship.
Our keba Good. I’m glad you said, Okay, let’s just slow down for a second with that. Because, like we listeners, imagine for yourself, that you are engaged, and the person you’re engaged to comes and tells you that they’re pregnant. We are talking about a trauma that Joseph experienced and and when I mean, his his mind, his heart, his body must have been reeling at those words. And he didn’t believe her right away, though the Holy Spirit what what is he supposed to make that? That mean? That was profound. And then for her, Oh, my gosh, I I I don’t know. I mean, I, I think to meditate on on the scandal of what Mary must have walked through. I was reading. A local pastor was posted the other day said, you know, she was not vindicated for most people. I mean, and maybe maybe for some never, but at least until Jesus’s resurrection. She was not vindicated. There were people who always would have looked at her sideways and thought, yeah, yeah, right. Sure, sure. Either you and Joseph had sex before you’re married or, or you had sex with somebody else. And she had to live with that. I mean, like, we, it’s, it’s another place where we kind of like, we, we sugarcoat it, you know, we, we make it into, you know, and we think Christmas cookies, this decorate the tree, but this is a really, they were walking through something really brutally difficult. And then the stable, you know, that they didn’t go to grandma’s house and, and be treated to the, you know, the nicest bedroom because she was pregnant, they ended up with hay and dirt on the floor, to give birth.
So we’ve taken this profoundly, you know, significant Christmas story, you know, how that the context of that in which Jesus came, the way he came? The reason he came here, we’ve taken all that and turned it into something, you know, responded in such a way that just really kind of mind boggling, isn’t it? And so, and it and so in relation to how we’re all dealing with our own loss and suffering and, you know, humiliation or whatever it is, like, okay, like, how do we think about Christmas now in a new light, then how come something that ministers to us in our hearts and in our current situations, in a way, that’s very powerful, much beyond, you know, Christmas cookies and carols as much lovely as they are? Right, much deeper, that can minister to us these days.
Yeah, and I and I appreciate you saying, because I don’t also we don’t want to, we don’t want to kind of rail against some of the things that are really are nice family gatherings and cookies, and food and Christmas trees and gifts, like, thank God for those things. But but we are, we’re, those are a foretaste. They’re meant to be a foretaste of what we’re really longing for, which has come in Christ, and yet has not yet fully been realized. And won’t until he returns again. So let’s get practical, I think it’s reasonable to say, Okay, great, Josh and Kitt. That’s helpful, good to know, not alone, good. Remember that. Jesus came into the suffering too. And I do think we can spend time meditating on that, there is something I think I just feel a sense of, of wanting to enter into, in a mystical way, the reality of Christ coming. And instead of, for me, instead of trying to numb out the places that feel that this year is not what I want it to be, instead of trying to avoid the expectations or demand that people meet my expectations or demand that God meet my expectations. Instead of you know, sitting in front of the TV and watching another movie, because it’s just easier than facing the pain of the season. I want to practice entering into it with a mindset that remembers that. So not to say it except that I’ve heard for years like, hey, let’s remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. And what I keep hearing this year when I think about those struggling with sin, or suffering, or sickness, etc. that from God’s perspective, from Jesus’s perspective, he’s saying, No, no, you are the reason for the season. You who are suffering, you are the reason for the season, you who are sitting and resting to get free, you are the reason for the season. You who are lonely, you are the reason for the season. You are why I came. I want to I want to press into that place with my my sorrow right now as opposed to somehow trying to sidestep all those things. How do you respond to that kid? What do you what do you hear in their mind?
As I thought that I just thought that is so beautiful, you know, that each one of us can embrace the fact that, you know, this, what happened? happened for us, and it’s happening for us right now. And so there is great cause for celebration, even in our soberness of sadness and loss and whatever else is going on. It’s like, there is light came for me, he came for this loneliness, this sadness, this, whatever it is, I’m feeling. So I think that to think about celebrating from that perspective, is just so that gets me very excited. Talk about a depth of celebration that would be very different. And it might just give us all eyes to see a little bit differently. Whatever we see this Christmas, you know, to just really take in the goodness of God in in the in our lives. And in, in his coming that we might otherwise just not notice might be so distracted by some of the sadness, and that’s fine, there is sadness. And if you’re sad, you should be sad with God. There’s also, you know, these other things that we can see glimmers of hope.
You You are, we’ve talked about this in other places, but you, you are further down the road, I think well further down the road than then than I am on how how that our sadness, and suffering can co can coexist with joy. I think I’ve had tastes of that in my life. But I I still find myself wanting to run away from sadness and suffering because I, I have doubt about how God can meet me there and I can experience joy or peace, or just his love. And in the midst of that. What do you have any advice for? For us as we kind of find ourselves wrestling As for me, as I find myself wrestling with, you know, even as I say, I know that I know that there’s something for me and not running away from that and and not ready for from the hard parts, but entering into Christ present presence with me there. But any counsel you might have for us as we wrap up on, I don’t put you on the spot. But I respect you a lot in this.
Well, thank you. And I think the thing that comes to my mind is something we’ve talked about before, but it’s been a while. And it’s this idea of willingness versus willfulness. And so sometimes we, we set our eyes on this outcome and this thing that well, in order for me to have a certain kind of joy or happiness, things have to look like this. And then we late labor, however you want, you know, I need my family needs to be happy. And these things need to be resolved. Where willingness is looking at Jesus fixing our eyes on him and saying, word, I’m looking to you, not to anything else, not to anybody else, not to a certain circumstance or outcome, but to you so that I don’t miss what you’re doing, and of who you are. And so fixing your eyes on Jesus, just saying what helped me to fix my eyes on you and not on outcome or expectation or circumstances? Let me see what you’re showing me.
Can I can I push a little bit further, I love what you’re saying. And I want to I think I notice kind of a pothole in the road that some people might run into. And I just want to ask you for your help with it. I think some people might hear what you’re saying and, and get stuck in a sense of, of kind of religious duty or should like, you know, I Jesus should be enough for me. So I need to. So they kind of like would end up forcing themselves which feels like a different kind of willfulness. So help us to avoid that pot puddle? How do we navigate that?
I’m so glad you mentioned that because I really don’t want to leave that message at all. Because I think it is such a different kind of invitation that God has for us. It isn’t a you should do this, you ought to do that. It’s so much more of an invitation like, just, you know, let’s look at each other. Let’s gaze at each other, Let’s trust each other. Jesus says to us, you know, let’s be in this together. Let’s, let’s see what we can see through different eyes, not because you should. But because there’s a invitation of love really, you know, and it isn’t it isn’t that you then don’t forget your sadness. But it’s that you can bring your sadness to God and in bringing your sadness to God, you also see this sense of we’re experienced this sense of comfort, you know, that only he can bring and get the comfort that he brings. If we allow him to if we if we bring ourselves fully to him in our sadness in our joy. He meets us in a way that’s very hard to to explain, but it’s different than any other kind of comfort we might get. invitation. Oh, goodness, not a not a should or an obligation.
Yeah, yeah, I like that. Because that even that, that what I was saying before the Jesus is the reason for the season has always come off to me with a spirit of like, you know, you shouldn’t be xy and z, you should be focused on him, which still feels like a kind of fleshly willfulness. But I hear. I think one thing that helps me as I’m listening to you is just remembering that the manger is the beginning of this of the story of Christ with us, that leads through his being with us on the earth and leads through the cross or he is with us in our in our sin and in our death, which leads to the resurrection, which we have begun to experience and and will yet experience and so I hear hope in what you’re describing and an easiness to it that just is kind of placing our hands in his hand. where we are, as opposed to trying to get where we’re supposed to be somehow, whether it’s trying to get we’re supposed to be because this is supposed to be a Marion bright season or get we’re supposed to be trusting God more, but rather, are right where I am. You meet me here. And that’s that to me is there’s some hoping that Well, yeah,
he understands it’s not easy to you know, we are, we are people who are accustomed to control more and more and more. And so, you know, it’s hard for us to let that go. And he knows that he’s not like, you know, exasperated, he’s just waiting. And so again, my encouragement is that I’m not saying like, Oh, this is easy, you know, you guys, let’s we can do this. It’s, um, it’s definitely a process two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, two steps back. But just to continue to just remind ourselves that it’s an invitation of goodness and love to these nada, not an obligation.
Amen. Love it. Hey, listeners, join us for next week’s podcast because we’re going to I think what we’re going to talk about really dovetails well with this, we’re going to talk about hope. But But as we close this, let me just pray a blessing over you listening, and a prayer, Lord, help us to not numb out or ignore the reality of pain and suffering in this world. And why Lord, because you did not ignore pain and suffering you did not ignore us and our pain and suffering. The reason for the season is that you saw us while still very far away, hurting and alone and unable to make our way to you, and you came to us, help us to find you where we are this year. And we ask this with thanks and praise to you Lord Jesus Christ. praise you Lord, dammit.
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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.
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Great message! Thanks.