In the sparkly season of Christmas, I often feel out of sync when life is stressful or dark or just full of emotions. I know that Christmas can be full of happiness for many people, but sometimes I just feel the pressure to do Christmas “right” when I can’t muster up the requisite joy on my own. December is dark and cold in Saskatoon. My introversion gets exhausted by the extra social commitments of the holiday. Keeping a decorated Christmas tree looking just right when I was single and living alone was so much easier than with small children in the house. This time of year can just be hard. In the last several years, Christmas seems to evoke so many more mixed emotions.
In particular, the presence of death and grief during the Christmas season seems so out of place. But, death is all around us, all the time. It feels like this has been an intense season for grief in my social networks. From fatal car accidents to swift cancer progression. From miscarriage to the expected (though not without emotion) death of elderly grandparents. In addition to the deaths in the last several weeks, I have been mourning alongside friends who mark anniversaries of deaths or remember again that they are moving ahead in life with events for which their loved one should have been present.
Maybe this ubiquity of death is why the metaphor that Paul uses in Romans 6 makes so much sense — the desire to be resurrected with Christ flies in the face of death.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
When I reflect on my own sinfulness, I do desire for sin to be dead — but am I willing to go through the process of dying? Do I really desire death and resurrection, couldn’t I just skip the death part?
In the last year, emotions have been big in our house. As we learn more about our boys, we learn more about ourselves, too. As I search the wisdom of parenting books and blogs, ask friends for advice I am often turned back to my own emotional experience of parenting. Why is it that the intensity of their emotions and the stubbornness to have their own way is matched by my own frustrated cry, “Why can’t we just do it my way?” And, we do all this on less sleep than we need to function in a calm, rational, patient way.
Parenting has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. I have never felt like a failure as often as I do as a parent. I probably am not actually failing all the times I feel like it — for the most part, they are happy and healthy. But, I also know there are things I do as a parent that I am disappointed when it turned out that way. I grieve the loss of an ideal of who I would be as a parent. I grieve the loss of imaginary children I thought I would be called upon to parent.
And yet, there are moments when the simple joy of leaning into the person in front of you — even when he is a preschooler who you have very mixed emotions about that day. Emotions are a funny thing. Just when I settle into it being hard, there are these moments where emotions fuel the connection I long for. Emotions themselves aren’t the enemy in our household, they are also part of the song we are writing as a family. If we can allow the hard emotions to be transposed into a new key, the harmony will be that much richer.
Joy as we tickle and giggle and dance.
Admiration as my child learns a new skill or expresses care and concern for others.
Love as we cuddle reading stories and say bedtime prayers.
Maybe the beauty which emotions bring to relationships is part of the resurrection in Christ that Paul was writing about. The presence of death and fear and failure is transposed, through Christ, into resurrection.
May the longing of Advent — thick with grief or sorrow or death — shift into the anticipation of Christ coming again to bring life. A life that does not deny death but transposes it.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.
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