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A Paradox on Christmas

This journey, this walk of grief, is the most paradoxical emotional road I’ve ever travelled.  As a believer in Jesus Christ and His Word, I know my son is at home with Him, never to suffer again.  But, as a mom, I’m hurting like I cannot even begin to describe to you.

It’s Christmas morning.  I’ve always loved Christmas and everything leading up to Christmas.  I’ve always loved Jesus and everything about Jesus, but especially the reason we celebrate Christmas morning – Jesus.  He is God, and like God, He is eternal, uncreated, the Creator, my creator, but He chose to obey His Father and lay aside His eternal glory and come to earth, His creation, and be born of a woman, also His creation.  He took on flesh; the eternal, glorious Creator took on the flesh He created and became a man, a human being, just like you and I.

We attended our church’s annual Christmas Eve service last night.  It has always been one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me; it is a beautiful candlelight service that directs our focus to “the reason for the season” – Jesus coming to the earth.  But, I cannot seem to reconcile the pain I feel from the loss of a precious and cherished son, with the joy I’ve always felt in the past celebrating the most precious and cherished Son coming to the earth.  As we sang “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”, I began to weep, feeling confused by the conflicting emotions.  My heart is so thankful that the King of kings and Lord of lords humbled Himself and took on flesh, the flesh He Himself created, so that I could become a child of God.  But my child, a young man in the prime of his life and just beginning to discover himself, lost his life and is now lying in a grave a few miles from my house.  This paradox of emotion – my grateful heart floating around in this cesspool of grief – is so overwhelming sometimes it paralyzes me.  As I wept, my thoughts went to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and I felt I had a knowledge of her that I’ve never considered before.  She lost her son, too.  I wondered if she knew from the time the angel appeared to her and told her of her impending immaculate conception that she would someday lose her son.  I wondered if she held her heart back a bit and didn’t fully give herself to loving Jesus because she knew He would someday break her heart.  When I read Mary’s Song in Luke chapter 1, I am so enthralled with her beautiful heart of worship and praise for God that I see her as the angelic mother of the Lord in the paintings I’ve seen in museums with a halo above her head.  But, when I think of her having to watch her first born son die a horrible tragic death on a wooden cross, and I realize I know that pain, I see her as a mom just like me and all the other moms of the world throughout all of time and history.  Since hours after we learned of our son’s mostly instantaneous death in a car accident I have been so thankful that he didn’t die a slow and painful death like Jesus did; and I’m so thankful that I didn’t have to watch my son die a slow and painful death like Mary did.  But the thankfulness doesn’t erase the pain in my heart, the grieving that seems to always be with me.  It is an emotional paradox – a confusing, exhausting, relentless emotional paradox.

I woke this morning, Christmas morning, with the song, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day in my heart.  I actually only know about 3 lines of the song, so after humming it in my head for a few hours I decided to look up the lyrics.  The song was originally a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the American Civil War.  Mr. Longfellow lost his wife in an accidental fire, and his oldest son joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father’s blessing around the same time.  His son wrote Longfellow a letter informing him of his enlistment; the letter included: “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer. I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.”  This touched my heart deeply, as my own son said almost those same words to me a few times.  His heart’s desire was to give his life for his country.  He once said, “I can’t think of a more noble way to die.”  Oh, that made my mom’s heart ache!  But, back to the song – I was also deeply touched by the words to this old familiar song, especially the last stanza.  God is not dead.  He sees and hears all that we are going through; in fact, He knows this pain, He is intimately familiar with it.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet
The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along
The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound
The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn
The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

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