Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Praise to the God of All Comfort
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
Sermon: “A Blue Christmas”
This isn’t an evening for long sermons. It’s a time when I, along with all of you, can “let my hair down,” so to speak, and face my grief this Christmas as all of you face yours. This is our safe space, free of fake smiles, forced laughter, holly jollies, and ho-ho-hos.
This is also a night for confession, for I must confess that I’m jealous, especially at Christmas, of those who live what the world calls “ordinary” lives.
You all know what I mean. They’re the people who haplessly dither along, never valuing the normalcy that any of us would give anything to have back in our lives.
I thought maybe it was just me. Then I ran across this column by Evona Jones.
My husband, Cliff, died in October and the world still celebrated Thanksgiving in November. I was outraged.
Christmas came, and people were laughing and shopping like nothing had happened. I walked around like a zombie, wondering how all these strangers could be so heartless.
I attended a school Christmas concert alone, and sat behind a couple who bickered and nagged at each other the entire time. This is the honest truth before God. I reached forward and tapped both of them on the shoulder and asked them to stop fussing or leave.
I explained that I’d just lost my husband a month before, and that it made me want to do physical injury to them because they were squandering precious time together that it looked like they didn’t even deserve. Needless to say, I cleared the area. Not my most grace-filled moment, but authentic!
It isn’t so much that people don’t deserve the relationships they still whose loss we mourn. They just don’t realize how blessed and precious they are.
What you and I sometimes forget, though, is that God is with us in ways that we ignore or can take for granted, too.
We grieve, but not, as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “as others do who have no hope.” That hope is worth sharing, Paul told the folks at Corinth:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Source of all mercies and the God of all consoling, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comforting God has given us. For while the sufferings of Christ are abundantly ours, our comforting is just as abundant through Christ.
God calls us to share that consolation, our hope in Jesus Christ. We dare to say, in faith, as Paul did before us, not even death can take that hope from us.
For I’m convinced that neither death, nor life, or angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You and I, we live in that hope. Take it with you to your Christmas celebrations, however different they are now from what they once were.
Bring to mind with love and gratitude those whose places are empty around the holiday table.
Treat with grace those who take for granted the precious relationships that we have lost. If you can, find a way to remind them of their blessings, so that they better appreciate them themselves.
Above all, remember that, as the gospel of John puts it, no matter how deep the darkness may appear, no matter how closely it may cling to us, it cannot overcome the light of Christ that has burst into our world. Walk in that light, and have a blessed, if not always a merry, Christmas.