Monday, December 12, 2016
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!
Have you heard? Christmas is coming; thirteen days and counting!
We are in the season of family visits, last minute scurrying around to find that perfect tree to decorate, and perfect gift to give. The temperatures are dropping along with the leaves from the trees in your yard. You’re hearing Christmas carols and getting invitations to cantatas, musicals, children’s plays and parties.
There is an occasional “bah; humbug” to be encountered, but, in all, it’s as the song has it: the most wonderful time of the year!
Except for some people.
Some folks are going through the pains of emotional, physical, relational, or financial ruin. It’s not pretty, and it is certainly difficult to muster up a smile when your life is being turned upside-down. But even in the midst of life’s crueler moments people often pray with David to come out of the doldrums, to look on the brighter side and cheer up. Still, it is not easy; sitting in a chemotherapy waiting room, or meeting with a financial crisis counsellor, or staring at the divorce packet you just received in the mail. That stuff is not going to be dismissed by a smile and another round of egg nog.
It just won’t!
Years ago a dear friend and church member gave Elizabeth and me a wonderful present of two dozen Christmas angel ornaments. They are hand-made and delightfully make their way onto the tree each year. But there is a darker side to this gift. Take a close look and you’ll see they’re all made out of okra pieces. I don’t like okra whether it’s fried, baked, raw or stewed! Nope!
People have been trying to convert me to being an okra-eating preacher for years; I’ve heard it all…if you just try it fried, like Aunt Dorey made, or if it’s just right with possum innards, or livermush…. Allow me to say it like George H.W. Bush said about broccoli: I’m nearly seventy years old, and I don’t like okra, and nobody’s gonna make me eat that mess! Just one more time for emphasis: I. Don’t. Like. OKRA!
Except for my ornaments; I like my angel onaments – no smell, no slime; they’re dried, painted, glued together with angel hair on top and covered with some kind of industrial sealer. They’re beautiful…and not on my plate; that’s the only okra for me!
There’s a darkness that comes along with Christmas, a darkness that contrasts the lights, manger scenes and children’s faces of happy times. It was the kind of darkness Mary and Joseph experienced. Mary was the kind of young Mom who treasured up in her heart all the stuff angels had told Joseph and her. That first Christmas included the joy of welcoming their first child, but it also meant the pain of giving birth.
And that first Christmas also foreshadowed the murder of their firstborn son on a cross because of Mary and Joseph’s sins and ours.
The joy and pain of that first Christmas gift is a strange marriage to hold at one time, and yet – that is what we are called to do; we are called to weep over the darkness and rejoice over the coming light.
I’ve decided to take a little different approach to okra in this Christmas season; if I see you eating okra at one of those parties, and actually enjoying the stuff, I’m going to think of my okra angel ornaments and try to celebrate your dark side with you.
It’s going to be an okra kind of Christmas!