I keep writing about this “graceful December” and trying to center myself on ways that make the month a smooth flowing celebration of Advent and Christmas, and in the background at all times is this nagging question…
How on earth does a graceful December come when so many people are suffering SO obviously everywhere right now?
There’s a natural barrage of other questions that follow after this one…
How on earth can there be so much suffering? What can be done about it? How should I feel about it? How can I help? And how do I still lose perspective so quickly, when I don’t have to reach farther than my phone to see and read all about new atrocities happening every single day?
These are overwhelming times if we let our thoughts get too carried away. But if we don’t think about the state of the world at all, we are doing ourselves and everyone around us a great disservice, too.
We cannot bury ourselves in the business (or busyness) of Christmas, such that we ignore the realities facing the rest of the world while we shop on Amazon or wrap sixty two presents to fit under the tree.
I’m not trying to put a guilt trip on anyone. If anything, I’m preaching to my own choir. I’m just so struck by the dichotomy of feeling like “we” should “do something” to help…with the refugee crisis, with orphaned children, at the local mission, or halfway around the world…while also feeling this great tug toward a beautiful little Christmas for ourselves here at home.
The fact of the matter is, I want both. I want to help somehow, and more than that, I feel deeply burdened to help somehow. But I also feel deeply hopeful that our own Christmas season will be lighter this year than it was last year…that things will be cozy and joyful, peaceful and without pain.
I know this isn’t wrong. I just don’t know how to reconcile the distinct differences between my daily burdens and the burdens carried by every man, woman and child who has crossed dangerous waters or borders in search of safety and peace since last Christmastime.
My problems feel so meager and momentary and insignificant. In light of eternity, they are.
So how, then, do I pursue a graceful December when I want it to translate to something much bigger than myself? How do we–as a family, as a community, as a body of believers, flip this graceful December idea on its head and make it really count for something?
I want someone in Greece to experience this graceful month like never before. I want someone in Syria to catch a glimpse of this graceful season. I want men, women and children coming into America in search of a future and a hope to feel this grace deep in their souls.
But how do we even begin?
For one thing (and specifically), I’ve needed to feel the weight of the refugee crisis in a tangible, personal way. I’ve needed to spend time reading, watching, listening to people’s stories, and I need to keep doing so. I think we all should.
We cannot pretend to know the stories, thoughts or intentions of sixty million people, and certainly not on the basis of one (or some). We can’t just lump whole people into categories, saddling them with assumptions and accusations and a lack of grace. We can’t. We’re held accountable to so much more.
We have to commit to learning and listening well so that we can respond with knowledge, out of grace.
If you’re like me, and you’ve spent more than a few minutes questioning the motives of anyone fleeing war and terror and death in the places that they once called home, please join me in praying to have open eyes and an open heart.
If you’re like me, and you’ve forgotten for even a moment that it’s not in our jurisdiction as humans to pass judgement on the basis of ignorance, please pray with me that we will see others as Christ sees them, and that others will see us as Christ sees us, too.
If you’re like me, and you’ve been overburdened by the darkness gaining a foothold in too many places around the world (and in our own backyards), please pray as I am that God’s will would be done and His Kingdom would come here on earth, just as it is in heaven.
If you’re like me, and you’ve let anything but love creep into your thoughts about our brothers and sisters–on our streets, or coming to our streets, or all over the world, please pray with me that our hearts would reflect more of God’s heart, and that He would forgive our judgement and fear.
If I were arriving on a distant shore or in a distant land, with nothing but the clothes on my back and my children at my feet, I would be so unbelievably broken. I’d be clinging to hope for dear life, because it might feel like the only thing we had left. I’d love to think I’d have the manger and the cross in my sight, but who knows? I’m not there in this moment, and I cannot be.
Instead, I’m here. Casting out thoughts to whomever may read them and praying that the fire in my belly and the aching in my heart will move someone else to a place of repentance and determination, too.
This is supposed to be a graceful December, remember? Not just for me in this little blue house, not just for you. Not only for Americans or Europeans or Africans, but for the whole world. The WHOLE world. God didn’t plant a seed it my heart for it to fall to the ground and die.
There are babies, women, teenagers, men, grandparents, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends all aching, very near and far away. Let’s be in prayer together to pursue what God has for us to do…
How can we be the hands and feet of Christ as we walk through this Advent season? As we welcome Christ as a helpless babe? As we welcome our Refugee and King?
let’s dialogue. i want to hear your heart!
A few links I’ve found helpful/thought provoking today that might help you as you process your own thoughts, too:
-Mandy Patinkin’s reflections after spending some time with the International Rescue Committee on the island of Lesbos
-A corresponding video to Mandy’s post above
-The amazing HONY’s coverage of the refugee crisis, from a refugee perspective. I am captivated and heartbroken by this man’s story (it’s worth reading all 7 captions in the series!)