December 2, 2016

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Jesus Christ, the ‘thrill of hope,’ is always cause for rejoicing

Patti LambI’ve often been described as a “Christmas person.” Just ask my family.

I could listen to Christmas music year-round. This past October, however, my family put the kibosh on that and respectfully requested that I save my Bing Crosby Christmas CD for late November.

My favorite movies are It’s a Wonderful Life and Elf. I have multiple Nativity sets and more ugly Christmas sweaters than I care to admit. Yet each Dec. 26, I’m there as soon as the stores open to troll around for Christmas items (at half-off!) for the following year’s merriment.

I’m often teased about my love for Christmas, especially by my sisters. This past Fourth of July, one of my sisters said in jest, “I’m assuming all of your Christmas cards are addressed by now.”

It’s true that I find much joy in Christmas.

This year, however, something feels different. I realize this is the time for joyful preparation. Advent has only just begun.

But for me and many friends and family members whom I love, life feels a little “off” right now. So many souls I know are hurting and troubled at this time, and it feels forced to deck the halls. The feeling extends beyond my own circle of friends to our country and our world, which also feels broken, divided, and in a bit of a funk.

I’ve never been the bah-humbug sort, and I certainly don’t plan to adopt that attitude. Maybe it’s just the timing of recent happenings and learning of the heavy crosses some good friends are carrying right now.

Within the past few weeks, I’ve learned that one of my friends is seriously ill, a few others have encountered broken marriages and even more friends are heartsick due to misfortunes which I cannot imagine bearing.

When I ran into one of these friends last week, out of habit, I asked how she was.

Quickly, I backpedaled. I tried to recover by saying, “Just another day in paradise, right?”

She commented that she couldn’t wait to get to “real” paradise, when we’re at home with God, and everything will be made whole again.

My heart ached for her and everyone involved in her situation.

Despite the beautiful Christmas cards we receive in the weeks to come from loved ones wherein life is seemingly perfect—right down to the color-coordinated outfits—I’m finding that the more common road is one of marked imperfection and pain. Many people are hurting as a result of illness, broken hearts, unemployment, disappointment, resentment and so many other painful emotions.

All is not exactly calm and bright, and many carry heavy hearts.

But if you are among those whose spirits feel sorrow this Christmas, there is a reason to rejoice and to be hopeful.

God sent his only son to redeem this hurting, unjust world and to give us the gift of everlasting life.

It’s easy to be joyful when everything is going well. It’s more difficult to show that same joy when things are very much going awry. But we are called to keep the faith and rejoice in our sorrow, even if we seem foolish by the world’s standards.

The best is truly yet to come.

“O Holy Night,” a popular Christmas song, contains a beautiful line that speaks to the true meaning of Christmas. “A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices.”

I pray that our weary world embraces the “thrill of hope,” which is Jesus Christ, and finds cause for rejoicing this Christmas and throughout the New Year.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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