On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray for women and men to bear the image of God in their unique ways, and for marriage to be given to those who desire it.
This time of year, it’s easy to plaster a happy face on a sad heart. The tinsel, lights, and fa-la-las dazzle, but rarely can bring the kind of cheer we desperately need. If you’ve had a rough year, years, or a good year with a lonely edge, the endless Kay Jeweler commercials (chocolate diamonds? Really?) and what I call the “Bridget Jones” problem don’t provide much fuel for singing “Good Christian men rejoice…” or “Joy to the world…”
In spite of the holiday cynicism and loneliness, we as Christians have reasons to be of good cheer﹘maybe not for the egg-noggy, mistletoe reasons that continually loop on Hulu, but because this time of year reminds us that God eventually puts an end to darkness, to waiting, and shines a redeeming light on us. The cheer that is for you﹘the beloved of God﹘doesn’t wait for circumstances to change but comforts and encourages in the midst of the creaky, craggy bits of life that leave our hearts raw.
When I read the Christmas story, my heart gravitates to Mary’s prayer in Luke 1﹘a reminder and fulfilment of God’s long-standing sovereignty and faithfulness. Her prayer recalls an earlier prayer from the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2.
Hannah’s story is one of a barren woman waiting for a child. She wept desperately before the Lord and eventually, she had a son﹘Samuel. Yes, God answered her prayer, but her prayer and hope looked forward to the birth of the One who brings ultimate cheer. So, when the angel says to the shepherds:
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
They aren’t just saying that to the shepherds, but to Mary, to Hannah, and to you. This cheer and joy doesn’t come wrapped in green and red ribbons and bows, but in the blood shed for you which offers you grace and all the reason in the world to have hope﹘hope that God will ultimately bring His goodness to you﹘either in this life or in the resurrected world to come.
Christmas looks past our temporal (but real and painful) heartaches and calls the future inheritance promised us into our messy present.