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The Season of Joy and Living in Egypt

The Season of Joy and Living in Egypt

It is the season of joy.

The Christ child has come, the divine become human, to bridge the chasm our God-rejection created. Holiness proffered by grace, atonement procured by suffering…hope secured for eternity.

For me, personally, this season, the blessings abound. Time to read snuggled up with my children each day. A refrigerator stocked full and a mother-in-law who helps cook it. Sunday morning worship in a church that lives the gospel. A new job that allows my man to be home for the holidays.

There are many more, and I know all of it, am thankful for all of it.

There is, yes, there is true reason for joy this season…

but feelings are not slave to reason.

 Longing

I come into this Christmas season conflicted, embattled, worn. 17 months since Dominic, yet in some ways I don’t feel I have moved that monthly equivalent forward. I have toddlers around me, sons of friends born within days of him, that remind me where my little man would be, right now, if he were here. I have grey in my hair that reminds me that the years are passing much faster than the desire to be done with childbearing. I have a little red stocking on the mantle – the fifth, and smaller than the other four – that won’t be filled with anything at all. I have baby books packed up, unsure of their fate. I have baby name options…waiting.

Grief doesn’t make me openly weep most of the time, anymore. Rather than an acute, stabbing wound, the pain has become a chronic, dull ache.

Sometimes the pain that doesn’t kill you just becomes a part of you. Or…

maybe the pain has simply reconstituted into longing.

I truly thought, this time last year, that we would at least be on our way to having another baby by now. We’re not. It is the second year that Christmas is not about the joy of new life, for us. My dreams of having a large family seem to dissipate with each passing month like warm breath into frigid Christmas air. Even Dominic’s Diaper Genie, my holdout symbol for the children with which the Lord would bless us, was unceremoniously relegated to the attic once my mother-in-law moved into that bedroom – by me.

Symbols lose their meaning after enough time passes.

This year, the Christmas story, with the angel’s joyous announcement to Elizabeth and then Mary that they were going to conceive – grates. It needles and pricks and elevates the dull ache to a throbbing longing that threatens to choke out the light and peace and joy.

It is hard to find joy in new life when that new life seems to be passing you by.

Finding the Not-So-Joyful in Christmas

This Christmas I have scoured the Christmas story for the not-so-joyful. For reassurance that joy and new life and hopeful beginnings weren’t the only part of the history. Because if it were, I think the Christmas story would lose its meaning for me, this year. I need a Christmas that is real. Not Thomas Kinkaid artful, not children’s storybook hopeful, but gritty and hard and honest and the stuff of real life.

I need a Christmas that can meet me in my longing and my need and my total lack of peace – and can join me there. Without angels singing. Without swaddling clothes on perfectly formed arms. Without nursing mothers who sing songs of praise over their heart’s desire.

I am relieved to have found it.

Matthew 2 tells us something that, to me, is wonderfully refreshing:

“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.”

This isn’t normally a part of Nativity plays. It isn’t recounted in Christmas Eve services. But it’s the part of the Christmas story that I needed, this year.

Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt after Christmas. Christmas wasn’t all about peace and joy.

Not Alone in Egypt

No – at some point after that beautiful birth, the Christ-child family had to pack up in haste and hightail it out of town to a foreign land. It wasn’t all celestial singing and divine conception and perfect newborn skin. There was actually a lot of trepidation and hardship and uncertainty and pain and even probably anger. Mary and Joseph weren’t especially blessed, or exempted from the sufferings of living in this world – even though they had the Son of God. No, after the angels’ songs ended and the shepherds went home and the Magi’s gifts were long since stored away, the Messiah’s family entered back into the muck of life and had to escape to a completely unfamiliar world and an uncertain future as they were being pursued by the government.

I can’t imagine they were singing “Silent Night” or “Joy to the World” during that whole debacle.

For some reason, this gives me peace. The reminder that there are seasons of life, and that the Christmas story isn’t only about the “joy” and “new life” season. There were many others to come – including living in Egypt. Losing Joseph somewhere along the line. Watching her son die a torturous death on a cross.

I have no doubt Mary knew about dull ache that becomes throbbing longing.

While there are most definitely joyful moments, Christmas this year, isn’t all about joy for me. This year’s journey has left me much more burdened, drained, and yearning than that. I am not in the stable, this year, with the child, but living in Egypt – unwittingly fearful, incessantly watching, and desperately longing for the Lord’s plan and deliverance.

I know that the Christmas child is, ultimately, the Lord’s plan for my deliverance. But, right now, in this space and time, the ache, the longing, remain.

I’m not sure if deliverance will come in the way I hope, or not. I don’t know if the ache will fade completely, or if the longing will be fulfilled, while I’m on this earth. But I do know that the Christmas family who heard the angel and saw the star and held the baby is also the same family that fled for their lives to Egypt.

This year, Christmas doesn’t have to be all about joy. Sometimes, when you’re living in the Egypt part of the Christmas story, it’s just about being reminded that you are not alone.

 

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