Yesterday, at Hope and Magnolia churches, we began a new series called “Awkward Family Christmas.” On the Sunday’s leading up to Christmas, we’ll be looking at some of the people in Jesus’ genealogy found in Matthew 1 and consider the “awkward” circumstances of their lives and how remarkable it is that they are included in Jesus’ family line. We’ll make a jump to consider the people sitting around our holiday tables and in our communities and how God invites each of us (regardless of our awkwardness) to be sons and daughters through the live, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The first person we considered was Tamar, found in Genesis 38. It’s not a scripture that we spend a lot of time on- mostly because dressing like a prostitute to sleep with your father-in-law does not translate well to Sunday School curriculum! While I could fill several blog post on Tamar and what is happening in the story- here is what I think is most important. After being married twice (both husbands die without any offspring- leaving Tamar vulnerable and at risk in ancient culture) Tamar is denied by her Father-in-law to be married to his youngest son when became of age (she was getting a reputation as a black widow evidently). The expectation of Judah was to give his son to marry Tamar in order to keep the inheritance and land in the family- as well as to protect Tamar. His actions were unjust. Tamar took matters into her own hands to secure her own future and safety- something that Judah was supposed to do.
Tamar went to great lengths to secure her future. It makes me think of the great lengths that some of my friends (and yours) go in order to pursue their own future and families.
I am increasingly aware (sorry its taken so long) of the struggle that many couples have with infertility. Over the last several weeks, many of those couples were willing to share their stories with me. Stories of awkward conversations (at best) and hurtful words that were meant to be encouragement from loved ones and friends. They shared with me about the disappointment and despair that they felt (and many continue to feel). They shared about their anger towards friends who conceive and their anger towards God. I have to admit that I was a little teary hearing about the great lengths that some of my friends have gone to conceive (daily injections, etc.) only to have a doctor tell them, “I’m sorry.”
I think we all know that the holidays are some of the most difficult times for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. What we do not always realize is that among us are those who are grieving and mourning the loss of their future and a hope of a family. This kind of ambiguous grief is harder for friends and family to identify and sometimes is hard for the person grieving to be aware of- but it is grief none-the-less.
Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) is a season of waiting and expectation. It is knowing that the sun will rise and dispel the darkness of the night. As Christians, we are called to walk with those who walk in the darkness of those who grieve, who are depressed, and who are lost. Rather than being quick to offer empty words of comfort, our best ministry tool is our presence and our willingness to feel the pain of our friends. We can offer a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and a constant attitude of prayer for our friends and family. In this way, we embody the presence of Christ through our ministry of presence.
The prophet Isaiah writes, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
When we walk with those who mourn, who grieve, whose lives are filled with despair and the loss of hope, we bring the light of Christ with us. That light is knowable in the darkness- and the closer we walk towards and with the light of Christ, the more the darkness is dispelled from our lives.
This Advent, seek the light of Christ. Walk with the light. Know the Hope of Jesus, our Savior.