Hebrews 2: 10-18/ Psalm 148
This Psalm tells us to praise! And while I know I should, I have to admit sometimes I just don’t feel like praising. As we begin to take down our Christmas decorations, put away the gifts, and our families go back home and we return to our normal routine, if you didn’t feel the loneliness of Christmas itself, you may very well feel it now. All the build up to the big day, the excitement of shopping and family gatherings have left us feeling a little bloated, maybe a little disappointed and our pocketbooks a little empty… now what?
Jesus has come,( yippee), but life hasn’t changed much. Life is still hard. Maybe it isn’t anything in particular that makes us feel blue, maybe we are disappointed that Santa didn’t bring us what we wanted or it is just a cold dreary day and we need more coffee but sometimes it is much more than that.
It isn’t just at Christmas that we feel this way. I am sure most of us have felt this way at some time or another. Nothing seems to go as planned, the depression is deeper than just surface disappointment, life is not what we thought it would be. We want to do things differently, be different. Maybe we see others so joyful and excited about the holidays. We begin to think that no one else has ever gone through what we are going through. In an effort to be strong and independent we struggle alone and in silence not wanting to burden others with our problems thinking that no one else would understand anyway.
Then maybe we begin to question our faith. If I was more faithful I wouldn’t be sick or I wouldn’t feel this way. We start to question God and ask things like- If God really loved me I wouldn’t be suffering like this. We begin to think that God has abandoned us in our most difficult hour. Sometimes we feel like we are really being tested and this time we are failing that test.
We like to see God as all knowing and all powerful. A God who not only has everything but made everything so how could God possibly understand my problems? What does God know about loneliness, feeling abandoned, being in pain, struggling to make ends meet, paying off debt or fear and humiliation?
When we envision God in this way it is easy to lose hope and seek to find comfort in our bad habits. We wonder what could God, who has everything, want from me? We forget that the only thing God wants is to be in a relationship with us. God has tried all kinds of things over the course of history to create that relationship. God taught people how to worship, what it meant to be holy, what it meant to trust God, and how a relationship with our brothers and sisters in this world and how we care for and treat each other is a reflection on how much we love and feel loved by God.
All this happened with pockets of success. Some were good at this but other people still violated their neighbors, stole from one another, ignored the poor and the distance between humanity and God grew larger instead of narrower. And there were those who felt they were not part of God’s plan for redemption- they felt left out. God knew that in order to be in a relationship with us, we had to be able to connect with God in a more direct way.God, not being one who is afraid to try new things decided to dwell with us and be Immanuel. Jesus Christ came to be that connection. Not only did Jesus come to earth but instead of coming in on a divine, angelic cloud or riding in on a white horse to rescue us, he came as a human.
He came into the world, just as we do- crying. He learned to walk, talk, push the parental limits of Mary and Joseph, and test his independence just as we do. He knew as a child what it meant to flee out of fear. He learned the pain of disappointment as the people whom he cared for abandoned him. He knew hunger and the temptation of using his own power to have his needs met. He learned the fear of death and loss as he watched the people around him suffer and die and faced a brutal death himself.
God could have chosen a multitude of ways to show us compassion and build a relationship with us but chose to suffer with us and experience life as we live it. When we feel like we are suffering alone, when no one understands what we are going through we can look to Jesus and know that he understands exactly how it is.
Jesus is our spiritual support group. As we face trials it is always those who have been through it and come out the other side who are our best guides. It is the support we find through people who know what chemotherapy is like, what it is like to raise a child with a disability, what it is like to watch a parent age or lose a child that bring us the most comfort and encouragement.
As we face our fears we know we can turn to God our parent, Jesus our brother and friend to gain encouragement knowing that Jesus faced all these things , faced death and the devil too and survived so that we can too. We find comfort in knowing that God has brought glory to God’s children through Jesus. We have reason to hope and to praise because Jesus became one of us and because he understands all that we are going through he can show us true mercy and compassion. It is not about testing our faith but experiencing that our faith as real by seeing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has passed the same tests.
This reminds us that it is not the absence of suffering that makes us who we are but learning to trust the one who created us to see us through even the most difficult times. God showed us compassion and mercy so that when we are able to trust in God to get us through our trails we can then lead others through theirs as well. God does not call us to be ashamed of who we are and the problems in our lives. Through Christ we are claimed, faults and all, to be the brothers and Sisters of Christ, loved and embraced, forgiven and cherished for who we are and who we are becoming in Christ.
This is why we praise. Not because God removes our problems. Not because following Jesus makes our lives easier but because we know that trust in him brings peace, comfort and the realization that we are not alone. Praise is not about being happy and joyous all the time. It is about seeking a deeper and more meaningful connection with God who loves us and cares about us enough to become one of us and to walk through this life just like we do and experience the same challenges we face.
Jesus willingly became the baby we celebrated just days ago so he could become the man who would show us the way and be the truth and the light that can guide us on any path, lead us out of danger, and bring light to a darkened world.