Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holding on for Dear Life

When I go to see my grandbaby Nicholas, I give his parents a date night so they can spend some time alone together while I stay home and babysit. (It’s quite a sacrifice on my part.) What they may not realize is that this isn’t really about them. It’s about ME. They think it’s their date night, but that’s really just a ruse to get them out of the way for MY date night with Nick.

Well, on my last date night with three-month-old Nick, he was fussing about going to sleep, as usual. I held him and rocked him singing my go-to lullaby for the babies in my life, “Silent Night.” When I got to, “…sleep in heavenly peace”, he was doing just that. So I stopped singing and studied the sweet angel sleeping in my arms. Filled with love to overflowing, I couldn’t contain it all, and that love spilled out through my eyes and ran down my cheeks.

Suddenly, Nick’s eyes popped open and he gave me a huge smile from ear to ear. Well, that just made the tears flow all the more. Then, I saw him taking a closer look at me and, for some reason, the sight of Nana with tears tickled him and he let out one of those delight-filled baby belly laughs. Which, of course made me laugh. And then Nick laughed back at me. Which made me laugh. And Nick laughed back at me again. And then he closed his eyes and resumed sleeping in heavenly peace. 

Oh, my! The two of us shared an incredible moment of joy. He won’t remember it, but I will, for the rest of my life. Sometimes these days when life seems to be getting the best of me, I’ll stop and think of that moment of joy with Nick and I can’t help but smile. (If you’ve seen me randomly smiling lately and you’ve wondered -- what’s up with that?-- now you know.)

Joy is such a gift for us, isn’t it? It’s not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is fleeting, it comes and goes depending on the circumstances of our lives. But joy runs deep. Joy abides within us. Joy pulls us through turmoil and trouble, struggle and sorrow.

Christmas joy comes to us every year when the earth is dark and cold, just when we need it the most. We fix our eyes on a baby in a cradle, surrounded by cows and sheep. His adoring parents watch his every breath. On a starry night, he is greeted by shepherds and angels. What could be more joyful than this holy moment filled with promise?

And yet, if we know how the rest of the story goes, we also know that this child’s story isn’t all sweetness and light.

A couple years ago, Clarkie’s dads noticed that he was distraught over the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Clarkie is a tender-hearted child and he couldn’t bear the thought of it. “Why is Jesus going to be born again? Then they’re just going to kill him all over again!” It was too much for him and he was in tears. Clarkie was right. Beneath the radiant joy, shadows of sorrow are lurking.

As I hold my new grandson in my arms, I try to imagine all that he will experience in his life. Maybe he’ll be smart, or athletic, or funny. He may grow up to have a little boy of his own. He may be successful or famous. But I know that his life will also be like any other life and it will include pain, and heartbreak, and death. I can’t bring myself to think of it for more than a millisecond.

But life does include sorrow, as well as joy. And that’s exactly why Christmas joy is so important.

Have you ever seen one of those old cowboy movies where they’re out on a cattle drive and the cowboy leads the way only to discover that he’s stepped into quicksand? He thought everything was fine and all of a sudden he’s sinking fast.

Have you ever felt like that in your life? Like you’re going along fine and then all of a sudden it feels like you’re sinking? You’re going down and there doesn’t seem to be any way out. Things are desperate. They may even feel hopeless.

Well, in the old cowboy movies, they always throw the one who is sinking a rope. The cowboy grabs hold of that rope and hangs on for dear life as he’s pulled to safety. That’s what joy is for us. When we’re sinking in quicksand, it’s a rope for us to grab onto and hold on for dear life.

Thank God for the gift of joy that comes to us at Christmas. It’s a joy that we can hang onto all the way through the cross. For the story of salvation is bookended with joy, isn’t it? At the end of our worship service on Christmas Eve, Ron played the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah. The last time we heard it at Holy Trinity was when he played it at Easter. There is joy in the manger that carries us through the pain and sorrow of the cross and brings us at the last to the joy of the empty tomb.

Joy is God’s gift to us at Christmas. Grab onto it, and hold on for dear life!

1 comment:

  1. This is just one of many gifts God has bestowed upon you.
    Be thankful for all the days of your life for they have led you to where you are right now.
    God has always had this plan for you.
    May joy and happiness be yours always.
    I am so happy for you and Gretchen.
    Merry Christmas !


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