Emotional complications…

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With the tragic shootings a Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut have come a whole slew of different reactions. Some call for the banning of assault weapons, others wonder whether teachers should carry guns. Some find comfort in the thought of these children being united with Jesus in heaven, others cannot find any comfort at all. I read an article today that said this is not the time for dancing or celebrating anything. I certainly respect anyone who feels their grief too keenly to engage in any celebration at the moment, but I also know there are others who find that even in their sorrow there is cause for celebration…there are reasons to smile and laugh. Life never occurs in a vacuum, or in neat, compartmentalized boxes.

It’s kind of a mess, and things are mixed up together. At every funeral I have ever presided over, there has been laughter through the tears. And I believe that’s the way it is meant to be. A life lived fully is a life where conflicting emotions are experienced together. Where joy and sorrow meet. Where the cradle dwells in the shadow of the cross. Where defeat and victory are experienced in the same event. That’s what Jesus’ story is all about. We have a way of white-washing it, of making it all pretty and nice, but the mess always existed in the story.

Take the shepherds and the angels for example:

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:8-12

Do you see that little phrase in the center of the passage? “They were terrified.” All heaven is breaking loose, with the best news ever, but the shepherds were terrified.

Because life is kind of messy, and you don’t expect all heaven to break loose in the midst of the night shift. Terror in the midst of joy. That is the mess of life. These things go together, and make the story more beautiful, in the end.

Not to give tomorrow’s passage away, but the shepherds will turn from terror into rejoicing. They will find their joy.

But for me, I’m glad to read that little phrase in the center of this passage. I am glad to know that I’m not the only one who knows what it means to feel more than one emotion at once. I’m glad to get to live this messy, confused, crazy life. And to know that it doesn’t always have to make sense.

Joy and sorrow can coexist within us, because God made us to be emotionally complex beings. I hope you can find some joy, even when sorrow seems to be all around. I hope, like the shepherds, though you may feel terror, you will not dwell there indefinitely. I hope you can hear the good news of great joy that is for all the people.

Rejoice!

I have written more than once about how difficult the work of ministry can be. And it is true, there are times when this work is back-breaking, both physically and spiritually. But today is not one of those days (in fact, this whole week has not been one of those weeks). You see, the reverse is also true. There are times when ministry is all party, party, party. There are times when my JOB is to simply be present with people and celebrate, and today has been that kind of day.

After a morning in the office, my partner in ministry, the Rev. Geoff Ross and I headed to a local golf club. There was an unbelievable feast laid out for us and other members of the clergy in Brampton, sponsored by Ward Funeral Home. The Brampton Ministerial was having its Christmas luncheon. The food was delicious and overwhelming in its abundance.

Then this evening our WMS (Women’s Missionary Society) met for their Christmas Potluck, and the members of the clergy in our congregation were invited to be there. I admit – my belly is full and I have used some of my extra Weight Watchers points today. But you know what – my soul is full, too.

At both celebrations Christmas carols were sung with great gusto. It is good to celebrate with others who share our faith.

The prophet Isaiah wrote:

The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.

Isaiah 9:2 NLT

That’s what Jesus means. We were in the dark, but now the light has come. We have gone from worry and despair to rejoicing and celebration. We are meant to live as people who know what it is like to be in the dark, and more importantly, know what it is like to be delivered from the dark.

So may your days be full of celebration. Whether marked by abundance or observed more quietly, may you rejoice with those around you. May you truly know what it means to have found deliverance and salvation.

Honoring Mom…

My folks have been in town for the last two days. They came to attend the stage production of War Horse last night (the tickets were a birthday gift from my brother and I) and then celebrate Mom’s birthday with a family dinner this evening.

I’ve said this before, but I am incredibly thankful for my parents. Even when they arrive at my house with other things on their agenda, they still find ways to do things that help me out. Yesterday, they arrived around noon and I came home and visited with them for a few minutes. Then I headed back to the church for a number of meetings throughout the afternoon. Mom texted just before she and Dad were going to head to Toronto for the show, and I made it home before they left (I love living next door to the church).

I walked in the house to find that they had vacuumed, tidied up, and mopped the floor for me. To me this is one of the greatest kindnesses in the world. Especially on a week when I am feeling ill and don’t have a lot of energy for doing that stuff myself.

My Mom is awesome. She is my confidante, my cheerleader, my person to bounce ideas off of…if you’ve heard a sermon of mine that you liked, chances are that my Mom  helped me focus and form my ideas during one of our nightly phone calls. She is the person I call when things are falling apart and the person I call when things are falling together.

I know I am extremely blessed to have the kind of relationship I have with both my folks. But since Mom’s birthday is coming up in just a few days (Dec 1st…we never celebrate any birthday on its actual DAY in our family!), I thought it would be good to take a few minutes to honor my Mom today.

Mom, you rule, even when you drive me crazy, and I am blessed to be your daughter.

Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God commanded you. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Deuteronomy 5:16 NLT