Sunday, December 21, 2014

keeping on....keeping on

Last night Ken and I went to Gwen's church for their yearly Christmas concert.  It is always good to sit back and listen to some Christmas music, to see the grandchildren and to focus on the season.  An added bonus was getting to hear Gwen sing and play.  Honestly, this has been a very tough couple of days.  Over and over you hear how hard holidays are for those who have lost loved ones.  Living it is just something else.  Hard just doesn't describe it.  And the bad thing is, everyone in our family is going through this and we all have our own struggles.  Yet we have to try to get through this season together.  What each of us needs sometimes conflicts with what someone else is able to do.  And so there is another layer of sorrow and grief with this season.  That is why every opportunity to turn my eyes to the reason for the season, is so important.  I seem to need lots and lots of reminders to just keep on.  So this event last night was much more than just a concert.  It was necessary.

There are so many on my Facebook feed who are ill, who have family members who are sick, those who have lost family members, or are facing terrible financial troubles or many other problems.  So my family has lots of company on this journey of keeping on during this Holiday.  Yet even though there are many, many on this path, it is so terribly lonely.  In years past I know that I was completely unaware of those who were not so happy during Christmas.  And I am feeling sorry and ashamed at my lack of compassion towards them.  It is amazing to me that so many people expect that our family should just be okay.  But the truth is, there is no time table to grieving.  And what is easy for some, is impossible for others.  I have said that we need to be gentle with ourselves and with each other.  But sometimes even that is hard.

This morning I woke up singing this Advent hymn.  I first learned this hymn when I taught it to a group of children.  I couldn't image why I was thinking of this hymn.  Until I looked closely at the words.  Advent is a time of waiting and anticipating the amazing wonder and miracle of the birth of Jesus.  This hymn starts off with the encouragement to us to rejoice.  And the rest of the hymn is our reason for hope.  And hope has been my "key word" this year.  I love the third verse.  The reminder - the hope - that we will live and reign forever in a place with no sorrow.  There we will be with Jesus and before the throne of glory.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
By: Laurentius Laurentii, 1660-1722

Rejoice, rejoice, believers, And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing, And darker night is near.
The bridegroom is arising And soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle; At midnight comes the cry.

The watchers on the mountain Proclaim the bridegroom near;
Go forth as He approaches With alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting; The gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory; The bridegroom is at hand.

The saints, who here in patience Their cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever When sorrow is no more.

Around the throne of glory The Lamb they shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him Their diadems of gold.

Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear;
Arise, O Sun so longed for, Over this benighted sphere.
With hearts and hands uplifted, We plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption That sets Your people free!

Yes, I needed to see these words today and focus on that hope more than my own stress.  This is a great reminder that we all need to "let our lights appear".  We need to shine during these dark times.   And we need to pray and watch and wrestle our way through this life.  I love the last verse...... with hearts and hands uplifted, WE PLEAD for Jesus to come.   Yes, I have been doing quite a bit of wrestling in the last weeks.  And more than my share of pleading.  And the good news is that in just a couple of days we will be celebrating that our Emmanuel has come to dwell with us.  So I will continue to hum this old hymn and feel my spirit actually begin to rejoice just a little. Join me and lets shine our lights brightly!

Jesus, thank you for music and giving us all reminders of our great hope.  Holy Spirit, thank you for putting this song on my heart today.  Help all of us to rejoice in spite of the darkness.  Thank you for reminding me to hold on to hope and to be more gentle with myself in the midst of sorrow.  Jesus, thank you for the promise of an eternity with no sorrow or grief and the joy of your presence.  Thank you for your grace and power to just keep on.  Amen

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