On Christmas Eve our church’s sanctuary was filled with lush, gorgeous music, bright red and white poinsettias, folks in their Christmas finery, smiles, beauty, candlelight… a wonderful welcome to the newborn King. I spent two nights with my ‘Holiday Family’, loving friends who truly treat me like I’m one of their own. It was a beautiful time filled with joy and love - not to mention lots (and lots!) of delicious food, great chats, and fun watching sweet little ones opening gifts!
This morning I went home and got on the computer before heading to church. I read one friend’s anguished email about her mom who had suffered a stroke, and saw another’s Facebook status of a really rough night with her special needs son. Another friend called to give me a concerning update on her very sick husband. Then I glanced through news stories - severe weather, bombings, religious violence and death.
I headed to church where I helped our Facilities Manager clean up the remnants of the Christmas Eve service. As the vacuum sucked up flecks of wax, bits of lint, and clumps of dirt, the thought that invaded my mind was, ‘Christmas is well and truly over’.
It seems inevitable that after all the expectation and anticipation, there is a huge letdown. All the joy and good times of Christmas Day evaporate as the realities of life invade again. And, unfortunately, it's not just Christmas. It sometimes feels like after any really great day comes The Day After.
Jesus’ birth was heralded by the glorious chorus of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest”. He was worshiped by shepherds and honored by Magi bringing kingly gifts. But, as we know, Jesus’ birth was not all joy.
Although He was ‘very God of very God’, His family had to flee, becoming refugees in Egypt to escape the vindictive wrath of Herod. Herod, whose obsession with staying in power caused the murder of all of Bethlehem’s baby boys. It’s not nice to talk about, is it? It’s upsetting and awful. As awful as the killings in Nigeria I read about this morning, the bombing in Pakistan, friends facing the illness and possible death of beloved family.
While we live in this broken world, Christmas Day is always going to be followed by The Day After. It may sound odd, and even morbid, but I find a type of comfort in acknowledging this. Huh?! You see, Jesus endured pain and hardship beyond anything we can comprehend – on the cross, yes, but it began long before that. And so, through His life, as well as His death, He is able to understand our suffering. And not just understand it, He is able to meet us and dwell with us in the midst of it.
During my quiet time this morning I read these words of promise, “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:8) Jesus did not come just for Christmas Day, but for all The Days After, too. He goes ahead of us, and will never, ever leave us. That gives me the strength and courage to keep going, no matter what may come next.
I pray that if you are experiencing one of those Days After, you will sense the presence of the One whose birth we celebrated yesterday. He is right there with you today, and truly will never leave you nor forsake you!