This birth has death forevermore confused.

This birth has death forevermore confused.
That God, the holy & immortal one
Should take on mortal flesh, should be abused,
Be killed–oh, how could such a thing be done?
What does this death then do to death?
Death grasps the holy body of the Lord,
Crushes the mortal flesh, lets side be gored–
Oh, God! has death not triumphed over life?
Why did you come to share our joy & pain?
Our feeble times of peace, our constant strife?
What did you think your fragile folk might gain?
I do not know the answer, Lord, but you,
Embracing death, made life forever new. -Madeleine L’Engle

The first week of Advent, our church had a service of grief and remembrance, just as a time to acknowledge that the holidays can be difficult. I was nervous about going, but it was nice to sit in the darkened chapel and let myself think about the things that are hard to remember this time of year. As they read the names, I looked around and realized there was so much loss, just in this room, just in the past year or so. It was a sobering thought, but also an encouraging one, that I am not alone in my struggles. It’s easy to get caught up in my own loss and forget that the holidays are hard for a lot of people.

There was some Scripture read, and one of the passages was from 1 Thessalonians: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” As the reader said the last part, “We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him,” there was an audible sigh in the room, as if everyone there was simultaneously taking comfort in that thought. That was the best moment of the night for me, as we all breathed in the truth of that hope together.

Before I went to the service, I was undecided about whether it was weird or inappropriate, just because maybe that’s not how we should be celebrating Advent. But it was one of the things I think will stand out from this year’s Christmas season–as we wait for Christmas, as we wait with the rest of the church for Christ’s return, we also wait to see our loved ones again. And because of Christmas, we wait with the hope that Jesus brings, knowing that he triumphed over death and shared that triumph with us.

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