(Reprinted from December 15, 2014)
Joy for the Brokenhearted
Advent Week 1: Hope for the Brokenhearted (Good place to start…)
Advent Week 2: Peace for the Brokenhearted (Little harder – dig deeper…)
Advent Week 3: Joy for the Brokenhearted (Seriously? OK….but, seriously?!)
When I got this crazy idea to write Advent reflections I clearly had not reviewed the weekly themes! All week I’ve wondered how I could begin to address something as….well….joyful….as JOY at a time when I am feeling such loss and sorrow. I thought I was doing a decent job of stepping clear of most of the emotional holiday landmines, but I’m finding there are just too many, all reminders that my shopping list – my family list – is missing two names. Tears well up frequently at the most inopportune times, and I scold myself for not focusing more on my abundant blessings – as though that will somehow satisfy the gaping holes that demand to be filled. There are moments I can’t see a day into this future, let alone an entire lifetime. Heart. Seriously. Broken.
So, tonight I went Christmas caroling with my church family. This yearly tradition is one I truly enjoy; we drive around town and sing a few carols to people who don’t easily get out, bringing a little bit of Christmas to their door. I went Christmas caroling…..but to be honest, I really didn’t want to. I felt like a big fat faker – the idea of singing merrily through the night, all the while longing for quick retreat back into the comfort of my own personal sorrow seemed false and wrong somehow. But the idea of staying home simply because I didn’t feel merry didn’t quite feel right either, so I said a quick prayer, threw on my scarf and went caroling. I’m truly thankful I did…..
House after house, we found people hungry for connection. Some too feeble to make it to the door listened from inner rooms, some shared personal needs and asked for prayer. We witnessed miraculous moments of clarity and tearful gratitude from those just so thankful to not be forgotten. It was beautiful….it was holy, and this time tears came not from sorrow, but in honor of these precious ones whose lives were touched so deeply with such a simple act of showing up on a doorstep and singing a few familiar songs.
Kay Warren says in her book, “Choosing Joy”, that joy is a choice we make day by day, and sometimes moment by moment. I thought it was impossible to feel “joyful” this Christmas season; how can joy and pain possibly co-exist? But I learned something tonight. My choice of “showing up” when I was feeling anything but joyful was the portal through which God truly reminded me what joy felt like. It didn’t take the pain away….but it showed me that doing something to bring others joy was a great way to begin to get there myself.
So tonight I caught a glimpse of joy, and that’s enough for now. Jesus hasn’t forgotten the brokenhearted, in fact he’s especially close to us. When we remember that – when we can truly embrace how well, how deeply and how completely we are loved, well……that’s cause for joy!
“…and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”