Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Season of Advent, Week 4: Love and "The Most Horrible Time of the Year"

I had lunch with her a few days ago, as she was getting ready to go away for the holidays. We had started with coffee and miniature sticky toffee puddings bathed in warm caramel sauce; and the conversation was wonderful, taking us all over the world and through several decades, and the morning somehow slipped by. 
A gift from my friend, this plate had
belonged to her late husband's aunt

We talked about her grandmother, who she said had been the one person who offered her unconditional love throughout her life. We also, of course, talked about her dear husband, who had passed away earlier this year. "This will be the first time in over 60 years that I have not spent Christmas with him," she mused. "I just need a quiet Christmas with my memories. I want to be where we would have been together. I want to grieve him."

She invited me to stay for lunch. And she invited me to say grace for the meal. In my prayer of thanks for the food and for the morning, I got a bit tangled up. I prayed that, as God had promised to be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow*, so might He be with my friend over the Christmas season and into the new year.

After we had said Amen, she looked at me. "God would be the perfect husband, wouldn't He?" she asked. Her husband - like all of us - had not been perfect.

"I guess He would be perfect," I agreed.

Her face crumpled. "I don't want a perfect husband," she whispered. "I just want him ..."

This morning I was shovelling the TH parking area and my neighbour was doing the parking lot for the two rooms next door. We were chatting as we worked; suddenly she stopped short and leaned on her shovel.

"I've been thinking about this day and thinking about this day and now it's here. It was one year ago today that my Mom died."

She went on to say how she had put together her Mom's recipes for Sally's grand kids. Included were "inspirational" quotations Sally had jotted down and notations she had made about her family. "When I was reading those sayings, I couldn't believe how many she had written down, and how corny some of them were ...

"I'm really missing Mom today," my friend added softly.

This fourth week of Advent is in many ways the hardest week. We hear about God loving the world so much that He gave His Son, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. There is so much manifestation of love at this particular season, so much good will floating around delicate as ice crystals.

But what about those whose lives have been changed forever by the loss of someone they love more than anyone else in the world? 

What if you can't bear the thought of getting up because there is going to be one less face at your table this Christmas?

What if the carols and the lights and the hastily shouted greetings start to pound in your head like nails being hammered over and over again with no reprieve?

What if it all feels so empty, so pointless?

You don't want perfect. You just want them.

Something Don, one of our friends at the Tuesday morning Bible study, said a week or so ago came to me as I was thinking about all the loss some of those people I love have sustained this year:

We can enter the family of God because Jesus entered the family of Man.

God did the only thing that could be done to bring us to Himself - He gave up His Son. 

The very first Christmas itself marked a time of loss as God the Father watched God the Son take on the confines of humanity. The One for whom time and space were never a factor gestated as a foetus for nine months in the crowded darkness of a womb. The One who cannot learn anything new had to be taught as an infant how to eat, how to walk, how to read. 

It is a mystery far too deep for me to be able to understand how God became man while remaining God. Nevertheless, I believe that in some way there must have been a type of physical separation between God the Father and God the Son when the latter "entered the family of Man" around the time of that first Christmas. God Himself felt the absence of His Son's presence on the day that has come to be the catalyst for families to gather together. 

For each of us who has lost someone very precious in the past year, all I can offer you is this: God does understand. He has been in the very place you find yourself today, longing to be with the one you love on the day everyone around us is singing "Joy to the World ..."

He was parted from His Son because it was the only way to bring us to Himself.

He didn't want perfect; He just wanted us.


  1. *The verse, Psalm 68:5, actually says "a defender of widows." When I told my friend, she said she liked that much better - "Everyone needs a perfect defender!" she chuckled.

  2. I just love this, karen! this post brought me to the reason we celebrate this week. thank you for leading me to His feet...


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