As a pastor, you take the good with the bad.
Most of it is good.
Sometimes, it's really bad.
Like a church member getting divorce papers on Christmas Eve.
Somehow, the "gift" doesn't seem too appropriate. Pretty contrary to what Christmas is supposed to be about. Everyone talks about spending time with family and friends for the holidays. But what when a family is tearing apart?
It's a stark contrast to what the season is "supposed" to be about. Peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Try telling that to this member that I just spent the last 45 minutes with.
Is there good news for this person? Is there a positive spin to put on with a person who is looking at the disintegration of something that so much time and energy was put into? Not hardly. Words fail to ease the pain, the frustration, the depression.
I sit next to this person, and my heart beats slower. Not fifty feet away, my mom and dad, my sister, niece and nephew, my wife and children are sitting down to enjoy a Christmas Eve lunch. Joy abounds, and my heart is being wrenched by a terribly sad story.
And as I sit there, I have to remind myself of the purpose of Christmas. I have to remind myself that Jesus came into this broken, messed up world to bring redemption. I have to remind myself that Christmas is a precursor to Easter.
If all we had to celebrate in our faith was the arrival of the Messiah, it would ring hollow in such situations. But the birth of Jesus was never and is not the most important event of the Christian faith. The death and resurrection of Jesus is. It is this event which shows the extent of how God relates to humanity. God is willing to become part of humanity, suffer with us, and die. And then the marvelous news is revealed to humankind: death is not the end. Suffering is not the end. Pain and frustration and broken families are not the end. Hope will have the last word as all creation is restored.
This is the only kind of news that can have any impact to someone who is hurting and hurting badly. If Christmas is only about presents and spending time with family and friends, there is no way this person I sat with today could have a pleasant one. But if this person can see past the pain and grief and remember what God is doing--remember that God is entering into our brokenness to redeem it, then it might, just might be possible for this person to have a Merry Christmas.
I know my prayers will ask for just such a thing.