When There’s Sorrow in Your Silent Night

Jesus’ birth came at an inconvenient time for Joseph and Mary. I deeply appreciate the inconvenience of the original happening as Christmas approaches this year.

As I write, my father is on hospice, growing weaker daily. I treasure every moment with him even though I know his death is merely a doorway to eternity and we will be together again one day.

These days are challenging enough balancing a demanding job, writing, and spending time with my parents. Adding holiday pressure would push anyone over the cliff of stress.

I won’t be taking that leap, however.  

The Jesus I know, the one we celebrate at Christmas, assures me daily that his “yoke is easy, and His burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)

So, I’m not concerned in the slightest that He’s measuring my love or devotion for Him by the decorations in my home, the smile on my face, or the number of church services I attend in December. It’s long been my understanding that Jesus places no pressure on us to “make Christmas special.” Christmas is a lovely day, rich with significance in my life, and full of opportunities to honor Jesus,

but so is today, and tomorrow, and the next.

It serves no one for me to become exhausted and short-tempered over cookies or shopping for “Jesus’ birthday.” I don’t only represent Jesus on December 25th. I represent Him every day at work, to family, to friends, and in my community. I can represent Him through sorrow and lament as powerfully as in seasons of good tidings and great joy. Not by pretending they aren’t real or that they don’t affect me, but by testifying to Jesus’ presence through this trial.

Are you experiencing a season of sadness during this Advent? Are there emotional demands during this time that leave you wondering if you have the resources to celebrate? Remember that there is “therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 ESV

Not even at Christmas.

Of course, the evil one will join forces with our own pressures and expectations to try to inject guilt into an already emotional time, but we can rely on the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s Word to defend us and keep our minds clear. The valley of death is one that we all must walk whether on our own or with loved ones, but we never walk it alone – Jesus is with us and isn’t THAT the message of Christmas? God WITH us, Emmanuel, even in this.

So, what do we do during our season of an inconvenient Christmas? We can take our cues from the original humans inconvenienced by Jesus’ birth:

Do what we must – Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem in obedience to the decree of Caesar. During emotionally demanding times, do what must be done – care for the failing loved one, sleep when sleep is available, shower, pay bills, eat.

This season, I’ve made sure that the children on my list will know they’re loved with traditions and gifts special to them, but I’ve told the grown-ups in my life that I am scaling back – they understand why. We’ve discussed what is important to them that I do or attend, and what it is that can be left aside this season. It’s an opportunity for them to be Jesus for me and for us all to care for one another. Jesus came to be with us and I want to be with my parents in this valley.

Leave what can wait – The shepherds and the wisemen left their daily tasks to find Jesus. Years later, the disciples would leave their daily lives to follow Jesus.

In this season of following Jesus to the bedside of my ailing father, there are things that can be left for another time. I’ve cancelled engagements. I’m not worried about Christmas decorations, parties, or “little extras.” I’m using conversations and presence to substitute for cards and presents. It is enough.

Weep for this world and rejoice for Jesus – At the birth of Jesus, there was cold inhumanity, treachery on the part of power, the murder of the innocents. The world was (and still is) a broken place where deception and death have their day. But the angels brought tidings of great joy that is for all people. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 ESV) While we may weep at our circumstances, we can rejoice in our God who reigns over all.

And so, sometimes I weep. At the cruelty of death. At the pain of broken family dynamics. In weariness and sorrow. But I also abscond with joy, even in the face of death, because Jesus is the Word – the first AND the last – on all things and that word is Life. He is the Light.  So, in this season, as in every other, I worship Him daily. And, while my home may not be covered with Christmas lights, my heart is filled with His light even in the darkness of this valley.

Are you experiencing an inconvenient Christmas? Rejoice and be glad, even as you weep. Jesus is with us in laughter and lament. He is with us in the delivery room and the mortuary. He is with us from manger to grave and into new life.

God applies no pressure to the Christmas season. Our God is not an idol we must carry. He is a living Father who carries us – even through the valley of death. 

So, to all those who weep, I wish you His presence in the dark of your long Silent Night.

If you are very quiet, you will hear Him sing over you, loved ones. 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 ESV

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23 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Nancy Griggs says:

    Praying for you to have peace this Christmas time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Excellent word. Our prayers as you walk in that valley.

  3. Lorri says:

    Thanks for sharing, Lori. I went through similar circumstances with my own father. We lost him the morning after Christmas. I later found out that my 10 year old had been praying every day with his class. His prayer was that Papa would just make it through Christmas.

    Paying for you all.

  4. Cathy Richmond says:

    Oh, Lori, I’m so sorry. My mom died Dec 3, 2014. We cancelled the gift exchange, but gathered for meals, putting up the tree, attending church, playing board games and assembling jigsaw puzzles. Ending the gift exchange was such a relief! Why do we put ourselves through all that crazy shopping and wrapping and shipping? My children are adults, so we might feel differently if they were little. Praying you’ll know God’s presence even more this year as you observe Christmas in your own special way.

  5. Susan says:

    Dear Lori,
    Thank you so very much for putting words on my feelings and emotions this December day, 2018. I came into my school office with a clear agenda of praising our Lord for the day regarding my agenda today. There would be staff, students, and parents coming at me with the typical requests and demands that occur in a middle school. For 95% of the time, I absolutely love working in this age group for a miraid of reasons. No time to explain now, as I want to get to the point, as I KNOW your time is very precious at this moment because of your Daddy. You should be with him every moment you can. Life is precious at every point of our journey’s.

    As I was saying….today I came into the school I was so focused on being positive and ready to take on any issue at school. But my mind and heart began to reflect on my family, friends, staff, students, and parents who can not celebrate with abandonment of cares, because they are fighting cancer, job changes, babies in ICU major surgeries, 94 mother is ill, etc. I plopped into my chair and prayed for the Lord of all creation to be with them, provide them with your presence and peace, give the medical attention they needed, etc. With several minutes before people came into the office I turned on some worship music to lift my heart and praise to our Father God. I reflected that at this moment I have everything I need, because of my Heavenly Father. I still walked through my day with the knowledge that I must continue to pray as I walked the halls, as I returned to my office, going to the cafeteria, and every corner of these spaces. I want for the students, parents, friends, family, and staff that at some point of their need that they would know the Giver of Life and that He is enough. The stuff around this season, you said so well and blessed me beyond what you can imagine! M

    Thank you, thank you…..so very much.

    God bless you and keep you always in His perfect peace as once again we learn, It is well with our soul!!

  6. Lj says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Lori. I am sorry to read that your family is walling a path that is difficult for many reasons. I so appreciate you giving us permission to have a low key, even quieter Christmas season. It could be because of a health challenge, a family member who is sick, or just a series of setbacks and challenges that have left some of us needing to take a breather. I really needed to hear this. We all are walking through different seasons of life and we often have need of rest & refreshment. We appreciate your honest sharing. It has been refresh8ng! Thank you.

  7. Maxine D says:

    Thank you – I needed this reminder of God’s great love and sovereignty right now, and that He hears the cry of my heart and sees my tears when shed in private.
    Blessings
    Maxine

  8. Mary Denman says:

    Praying for you and your family Lori. I know how hard this is. God will see you through. Much love.

  9. Lois C Tiscione says:

    A friend shared this with me, ut is beautiful and just what I needed this morning. Thank you

  10. Anonymous says:

    May our great and awesome God continue to hold you securely in His everlasting arms. Praying.

  11. Diane McElwain says:

    May God give you and your family grace and comfort as you see your father go. Bless you.

  12. Ralph L Hays says:

    Since my divorce some nine years ago my life took a lonely shift. My married life family abandoned me. The only family I had after that was & now is my church family. After moving to Waco that church family became even more extended. Knowing no one when I moved here I have cultivated friends at various area churches. And as nice as that is, still I have no blood family nearby.
    I say all that to express the yearly loneliness that is heaped on people like me this time of year.
    Visual images of family and romance remind me of what I don’t have in my life.
    Yet I have been reminded by many people in many venues here that God knows me – knows my disappointments – knows my needs – and hears my prayers.
    For that I am comforted at least for a while.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Lori, I buried my dad one week ago today. This! I needed this!

  14. Rudy says:

    Lori, Praying for you and your family as you walk through the valley. Tomorrow marks 24 years since my first husband was called home. Our kids were 10 and 12. That night I had been sent home by nurses to try and get some sleep. After a short time, I was woken by a blue/white light pouring into one of my windows. The feeling I felt as that light enveloped me like a paste was and still is indescribable. It’s as if God placed a single grain of sugar in my hand and then said, “Taste that. That’s what sweetness tastes like.” I suspect the sweetness of heaven is more on par with all the sugar that’s ever been produced, past, present, and future. All I was given was a single grain – and it was good. The sweetness of heaven awaits your dad and all of us who cling to Christ. Be blessed. Thank you for your writing.
    .

  15. Lu-Ann says:

    Lori, Please know that your Singing Hills friends are praying for and thinking of you and your family in this difficult season. Your words today are just what many needed to hear. May the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit comfort you and bring you joy this Christmastime.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Lori
    This is so timely for me. May I share this with my griefshare support group. Your words resound in truth that those of us dealing with loss often need to be reminded of. Thank you for considering. Prayers and understanding for you in this season of change.

    Brenda Palmer
    Marshalltown, IA

  17. Bethany Yagci says:

    Lori, you are absolutely doing the right thing. I pray your father’s pain will ease, your time with him will be greatly blessed. I pray the season will still comfort you somehow, but mostly that your Father’s tender loving care will shine through to you, to your father, to everyone concerned. Even deep sorrows with the Father at hand, are better than all the joys of the world. Praying…

  18. Anonymous says:

    Amen Laurie! Praying God be with you and your family during this Silent Night. May you all feel His presence surround you like a warm blanket and may you hear His still, small voce whisper words of comfort and etetnal joy. Merry Christmas!! Love Deb and Dave

  19. Cathy Gohlke says:

    Praying for you and your precious family, Lori. This is a dark valley to walk, but so precious to accompany our loved ones through, to the end of this life and to stand with them at the doorway to eternity. God bless you, dear Sister in Christ.

  20. Sherry Kaiser says:

    So beautiful, Lori, and such a benediction over our own “inconvenient Christmas”. May God bless you and comfort you in this season and always.

  21. Lisa Harper says:

    This was so timely, as I find myself once again, becoming overwhelmed by emotions during Christmas. These feelings of dread, sadness, anguish, and anxiety creep up at any given hour. I was reminded just the other day that I am not alone in this. My sweet 88 year young neighbor was in tears a few days ago when I visited her..as I often do to check on her. This particular day I was taking her to a dr appointment. As soon as she walked into her den I sensed a void in her face. It didn’t take long for her to open up and covey her sadness and tears. There are 365 days in a year. But this time of year, we seemingly succumb to all of life’s pressures, and so the dominos start to fall. Truth: Our joy does not come from the absence of a crowded season, but our joy comes in the midst of it. You and I will not be insulated from this crowded, frantic Christmas season, we will live in the middle of it. It’s no accident the standard screenplay holiday movies involves “saving” Christmas. Our anxiety and overwhelm is literally the main secular story we tell about this time of year.

    Yet Jesus came to save us, not the other way around. As Advent continues and I anticipate every carol, I want to remind myself that saving Christmas isn’t my job at all.

  22. Barbara Latta says:

    My heart goes out to you, Lori, in the situation with your dad. My mother was in hospice this summer and passed into the arms of God in July. But I rejoice knowing this Christmas she is not in pain or misery but is with the Savior who was born for us and is having the best celebration ever. Because He was born we can have joy in the darkest silent night.