Friday, December 25, 2015

the honest prayers of Christmas

This year one of the most powerful things about the Christmas story for me has been the reality of God entering a broken world through the incarnation. Through the gospels we get glimpses of an ancient world very much like our modern one: with corrupt religious institutions, oppressive governments, and flawed, brave, hopeful, loving, terrified, broken people. Too often at Christmas we sugar coat the gospel into something warm and fuzzy. I do it every year as I watch 100 Christmas movies, sing all the carols, buy and wrap all the presents, and almost convince myself that these activities are what the season is really about. But scripture doesn't tell a warm fuzzy story. It tells a story of a God becoming vulnerable to a violent, corrupt, beautifully broken world. What has struck me particularly this Christmas is that God doesn't need us to pretend to be okay. Christ enters an imperfect world. God doesn't need our lives to look like a picturesque scene in a snow globe. Christ enters into our fear, our doubt, our longing. In Jesus, God enters the world just as it is. Flaws and all. So this Christmas Eve at our 11pm worship, when we lit the candles for the last time, instead of a traditional pretty prayer, I wrote these honest prayers of Christmas, reflecting on the hurts and longings of people in the real world and how Jesus, God enfleshed among us, can still change everything.

Reading One - Hope

Another job interview, another rejection… and at home, another and another and another bill that has to paid. The pile just keeps getting bigger: mortgage payment, water bill, electric bill, car payment, insurance, student loans, credit cards. They just keep coming and I don’t know what I am going to do. I feel like I am letting everyone down. Maybe if I had made different choices we would be a different situation. Maybe if I had worked harder. But I can’t go back in time, here I am without a job, with all this credit card debt, with a family I am letting down. Sometimes it feels like I will never be enough, like I should just give up. I am at the end of my rope. God, if you can hear me, I just need to know there’s hope. I just need to know things could get better tomorrow. Could you please open a door? If you can come and redeem the whole world, you can redeem me right? You can help me and my family get back on our feet? God, if ever there was a time for you to show up, this is it. I need some money to help me get by. I need a job. I need a way forward. I need a little Hope. Most of all, I just need You.

Reading Two - Peace

I remember seeing fire and hearing loud noises. Booms and crashes and explosions, that made my ears ring like there was a bell inside my head. We had to pack everything we could carry and get out as quick as we could. Now we are living here in this crowded camp with all these other people, just waiting, trying to figure out when we can go home again. Mommy said to be brave, so I am trying. I miss my room and my nightlight. I miss my bed and my toys. Mom and Dad say home is wherever we are together, and most days I believe them. Home isn’t a place, it is the people you are with. Like when my silly sister tickles me until we are both laughing so hard we almost can’t breathe. Or when my Dad tells me the best stories where I am a hero who wears a cape and flies in the sky. Or when my mom sings me to sleep. I want everyone in the world to feel at home, to feel safe and loved like I do with my family. I guess that’s what it means to have peace. They say that when I grow up I can help make the world a better place, and I can’t wait. If all of us worked together, I know we could do it. We could make every place home. Tonight that’s what I want: peace, not just for my family, but for everybody in the whole world. Peace, so there’s no more bad guys. Peace, so one has to run away anymore. Peace, so no one ever feels alone.

Reading Three - Joy

Finally, here we are. Christmas Eve, the marathon of the last month is finally finished. Instead of feeling happy, I mostly just feel relieved that it’s over. We put up the lights and decorated the tree. Hundreds of cookies have been baked and frosted and eaten. I made the costumes for the Christmas play, we went to the kids concerts, we stopped by as many parties as we could fit in, we sang all the carols, and sent all the cards. We visited Santa, not once, not twice, but three times. I’ve bought and wrapped the gifts; And still it feels like everyone always wants one more thing. And my to do list keep getting longer and longer. Always more laundry to do, more food to buy, one more errand to run, one more thing to fit in the schedule. I love my family more than anything in the world. They are my life, but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed, so tired. When do we get to just sit and enjoy each other? I know this is supposed to be the most joyful time of the year, but sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions. In the midst of all this busy-ness, how am I supposed to find real joy? If I could ask for anything this year, that’s what it would be it. Enough time to stop and experience real rejoicing. So, Jesus, that’s what I’m asking for. Tonight, would you bring us the real joy of Christmas?

Reading Four - Love

This has been the hardest Christmas season of my life. The first one without my Betty. The kids have been wonderful, bringing me to all the family functions, trying to include me in the festivities. But at each happy event, it’s hard to smile, when all I feel is grief. Everything reminds me of her. Every song, every decoration, every place we go, and thing we do. After so many years with one person, they become an extension of yourself. What’s the point of any of this without her here? I miss her hand on mine, I miss her reading the paper in the morning and telling me the news, I miss sitting quietly together at the end of the day as we drank a cup of tea. I even miss the things I always thought I hated. Those terrible hard as a rock ginger snap cookies she would make every year, the way she sang Christmas Carols a little too loud and a lot off key, the way she’d nag me to put up the Christmas lights even when it was cold as death outside. I try to convince myself to be joyful. I know she is in a better place, singing with all her gusto in the heavenly choir. I know she’s looking down on me, telling me to just snap out of it already. This is the season of Love afterall. Time to remember the love of Jesus that is present all around us and all that. But, to be honest, it is all a lot harder than I thought it would be. God, I have to wonder how can I experience the season of love with a broken heart? Will you please come and heal this ache in my heart and just help it to hurt a little less? Will you teach me how to love this life again? Betty used to say “God is Love.” I could sure use some of that love right now.

Reading Five - Emmanuel, God with Us

O my beloveds, how amazing it is to see you through the eyes of a baby. You look so beautiful. I am so excited to be with you in this wonderful and broken world. I know this life can be so hard, sometimes it feels like more than you can bear. That’s why I’ve come. To bear it with you. To feel the hurt for you. To hold you when you feel alone. Look at me, my loves. I am here to heal your hurts, to bind up the broken-hearted, to give hope to the hopeless. I’ve come to be with you. No matter what. When you are lost, when you are afraid, when you are anxious. I am here. Even when you forget me, when your lives are too busy, and your minds are too full. I will wait for you. I want you to know that hope, peace, joy and love are possible. I’ve come so you can experience all that and more. I have come to love you, I have come to save you, I have come to light a candle in the darkness. I have come to change the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved all these excerpts, especially the last. When holding a baby, a momma and grandma feel the love and hope of the future. They see eternal love reflected back to them. This must be how God loves us, in way that passes our own understanding. When you take care of older parents, you see the reflection of your love in their eyes. And so the circle goes. They are your babies and you are theirs. The hope of love, comfort, and peace remains. Maybe with God's help, the job of caring for others can be the greatest thing of all. Thank you for sharing, Katie.