Do You Need Consolation at the Close of Christmas?

Today is Epiphany — the close of Christmas celebrations in many Christian traditions and the day we remember the wisemen who followed the star of Bethlehem in search of the Light of the World. Despite being associated with that bright star, the wisemen have some heavy and threatening elements in their section of the Christmas narrative. The jealousy of King Herod and his cruelty in murdering Bethlehem’s baby boys, for example. Even the gifts the magi brought to Jesus foreshadowed his suffering and death.

Usually Christmas is thought of as a bright and joyous season, but this year it has brought a lot of darkness to my corner of the world. Tragic deaths, senseless accidents, domestic violence, missing persons, criminal investigations. My tiny home province saw four young lives lost to the impaired judgment and devastating choices of a drunk driver, not to mention high schoolers arrested for homicide. How do you even begin to wrap your head around such things? These are traumas that shake the very bedrock of small communities. And I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look too far into your corner of the world to find similar heartache.

I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night lately, thinking about grieving parents and suffering children. There is something about the stillness of nighttime that makes those thoughts loom larger than they do in the light of day. But I’ve also noticed that the dark of night seems to bring Heaven a little closer. When I awake with these thoughts, it’s as if my prayers don’t have as far to travel.

And thankfully, eloquence doesn’t count when it comes to praying, because all I can think of to say in those moments is, “Lord, have mercy! Be near them!” One night I’m sure I heard Him whisper back, “I am close to the brokenhearted.” Reminded of that reality, my prayer shifted a little — “Remind them too, Lord. Show them You are near!”

What is it that we really need in the darkest of suffering anyway? Is it counsel or comfort? I’m not sure we need someone to instruct our pain as much as we need someone to inhabit it. As Frederick Buechner once wrote regarding the atrocious sufferings of Job:

The heinous darkness of this particular holiday season has reminded me of what is at the core of our celebrations — God revealing Himself, inhabiting the pain of our world and our hearts, making a way from the manger to the cross and through the empty tomb, right into the comfort of His eternal presence, even now.

“Be near me, Lord Jesus. I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray.” I have been singing those lyrics a bit more thoughtfully with my children this year. I have been hugging my teens a little tighter, trying to breathe a little deeper, praying for the knot in my stomach to unravel in true trust. For isn’t this what Jesus has done, what He continues to do? He has promised to never leave us or forsake us and to love us with a love from which no power of darkness will ever be able to separate us.

These are things I need to be reminded of when the dark seeks to dim the light of Christmas. Maybe you need the consolation of His light and love today too? One day all the longest nights will be left behind forever in the dawning of a new unending day with Jesus — our King who was and is and is to come. This is the unconquerable consolation of Christmas.

This article was originally posted at Well Christian Woman.

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