In the last couple of weeks I retrieved boxes of ornaments from the cellar and began to adorn the house. I cannot open these boxes, many given to me by my mother, without dwelling in sadness as well as joy. A marriage of households last year spurred on sorting things, and building piles for the yard sale. But there are still so many things I will never use again, things that came from her hand, that I cannot surrender. Yet.
I cannot surrender the tenderness by which she found just the right do it yourself ornament kits at Two Guys – the Big Store in New London Connecticut before K Mart was invented. I cannot surrender the long unused Christmas Tree stand, its box ripped, held together by twine. She bought it the first year my Dad was under the ocean in a submarine on patrol during the Christmas season.
And there are gifts from my first marriage. And there are gifts from dear ones who are no longer dear. This time of painful and joyful remembrance opens my heart to the reality of loss, the difficulty of change. And one of the gifts of our pain is that through it we can see the pain of others near and far. As we prepare to sing Peace on Earth Good Will to Men … that shalom, that deep contentment and joy we long for, is not present in all of our households or in our global neighborhood. And yet through the darkness we can see a bit of light.
Blessed are those who remember the grieving parents of Newtown and Chicago, and the grieving children whose mothers have died. Blessed are those who have not forgotten that thousands huddle in snow covered tents in refugee camps in Jordan, and thousands more are sifting rubble and waiting for water in cities Typhoon Haiyan destroyed. Blessed are you whose voices tonight remember Matthew Harriman and all others who are dying alone for no good reason. Blessed are you who are moved to break apart failed systems and rebuild caring community.
We remember joy, and we hold close the little fire that still burns, steadfastly waiting for it to grow. We remember peace, and hold our hands out to each other without fear working together to build the peaceable kingdom that is promised to us by the One who came into the human family as a vulnerable child.
Let us pray: God who creeps into the corners of our lives where anxiety and sorrow abide, be with us in our lamentation for our own brokenness, and for the brokenness around us. Be with us in our longing for light. Bless us with courage to hold onto the pieces of the life you give us that hold the light and reflect it. Bless us with your ongoing work of resurrection. Make us instruments of your peace, and bearers of your light. In the name of Jesus, the One who is to come. Amen.