As I have sat in Advent, it has occurred to me how quickly I move to Christmas joy, skipping over Christmas pain. But the gift of new life only comes through labor and pain. I have not liked that thought, yet it is truth anyhow. A Father had to go through the painful experience of letting His Son go so that He could come to us. Do you know that “letting go” is often said to be the most difficult spiritual practice to master? All of us hold on to things, ideas, and attitudes long after they have served their usefulness. Yet, God knew that the time was right to send His Son into a world that then, like now, was filled with racial hatred, economic inequities and social injustice. What kind of Father does that? And, what’s more, He sent His Son to a girl who could have been stoned for opening herself up to the pain of birthing a holy thing.
Mary pondered a painful idea in her heart. When she first accepted God’s will for her life, she sang a magnificent song of gratitude, but as this journey took her to a stable for a delivery room, Mary might have had some questions about her bundle of joy. He came with a bundle of pain, some that she never imagined at the time of her initial yes. This mother would watch her son die on a cross for all the world to see. What kind of mother wants her son’s death to lead the evening news day after day after day? What is that pain like?
|When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. John 16:21|
If you’re like me, you probably try to keep pain at a distance. I’m more Joel Osteen than John the Baptist. I love pleasure, prosperity and peace and quiet. But the reality is for something new to be formed in me, it’s going to be painful. The process of taking out my stony heart and replacing it with a heart of flesh feels like major surgery without the anesthesia. It freaking hurts! Yet without the Great Physician’s loving scalpel, the cancerous tumor cannot be removed. If I don’t continue to say “yes” and “yes” and ‘yes” to all that He allows into the womb of my life, the holy thing He wants to birth in me will never arrive.
Recently, I came across a kind of prayer named welcoming prayer. I had never heard of it before, but to sum up what the author stated, welcoming prayer is consenting to receive, accept, and be open to all of life’s experiences with childlike curiosity and wonder. It’s giving God consent…to say as Mary said, “be it unto me according to thy word.” One day, her son, weeping in a garden, uttered similar words, “Not my will, but thine be done.” His mother taught him well.
So, this year, I wait and welcome Christmas and the New Year with everything that it will bring. Pain and joy, two sides of the one journey that can take us ever closer to our Father if we welcome them with love and gratitude. Redemptive pain changes the world.
Merry Christmas and welcome to everything that God allows in the New Year!