barren at christmas

December 2016

Add “in a Christmas service” to the list of public places I have found myself crying.

On Sunday, one of our pastors was intro-ing the story of the Shepherds by talking about elaborate birth announcements expecting parents use these days – the photo with their legs and the little bitty pair of shoes in the middle, the social media attention, the gender reveal parties…

And while it was a fun anecdote to begin with, something cut me to the core, and I found myself rushing out to a chair in a corner nook and quietly losing myself in tears, trying to quiet my breaths in between sobs.

Grief hits at unexpected moments, and sometimes it’s triggered by something that a couple of days before would have elicited a smile or even simply an apathetic acknowledgement. Yet, this time, it’s tears and a strong desire to curl up in the fetal position and let the tears freely fall.

Christmas is a “thin place” for me – a place where heaven and earth seem just a bit closer, when I find myself lost in the longing and the waiting of Advent and the nearness of comfort even as pain also draws nearer.

We focus on a woman about to give birth and sing about the baby in a manger, and my heart longs to hold my own baby close. It seems that Christmas is even more sweet for new mothers rocking their child to soothe, picturing what it must have been like for Mary as a new mother. Elizabeth, too, as her journey of barrenness was redeemed by the expectation of Christ’s cousin and forerunner.

I know Christmas is not about me. I know it’s about the coming of Christ and the longing we experience as we wait for His return. I don’t want to make it just about my pain, and it sounds terrible to say the above things without caveating that I know it’s not about me.

But it often makes both my pain and His comfort come alive simultaneously.

Over the past couple of years, as I have sought to identify with the nation of Israel in their longing, I have asked God to show Himself again as my consolation, just as He was and is “the consolation of Israel.”

If you are also struggling with grief this Christmas – whether due to infertility or a recent miscarriage or the death of a loved one or simply a season of feeling discouraged – you are not alone. And while we should not turn the focus of the season to us, we can rejoice that He is the Comforter Who came as our Redeemer. He sees our pain and meets us in it. And He is coming back to make all things right.