Advent Readings Day 23

Reading: Psalm 42

“As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Psalm 42: 1 – 2

Growing up and even into my early adult years, I imagined that everyone loved Christmas. After all it can feel like such a magical time of the year complete with concerts, cookies, special candy, new emphasis in church services, cookies, shopping for that right gift, cookies, and on and on. It is so wonderful that we have this festival to mark Jesus’ coming.

But along the way I started to get glimpses of how dark Christmas can be for others. These are the people who put on great smiles at the office party, but inside they are suffering as Christmas brings so much pain into their lives. The first time I ever noticed this was in a young troubled couple that Christy and I started reaching out to our first Christmas together. They were poor, uneducated, underemployed and seriously oppressed as a result of a series of poor choices they had made. Christmas simply added an extra weight to their shoulders with so much guilt and shame.

Since then, a similar message has echoed over and over again as I have walked with others through Christmas. A single mother who sees the injustice at Christmas as she feels so lonely. The homeless man who will spend the whole Christmas season in a shelter because his PTSD left him too difficult for his family to deal with. The young child who is embittered because Child Protective Services had to put her into custody and she is not be able to see her family. The young wife who will spend Christmas in a safe house because her husband became abusive yet again. The young family who lost a child and will spend the season feeling the gut wrenching pain that everyone is not around the table who should be.

While many of us are engaged in “the most wonderful time of the year,” others are living out quiet lives of desperation as they pray away the days until December 26th when everyone can again forget about all of this “Christmas spirit” stuff.

It is into this kind of darkness that Psalm 42 speaks words of life. Here is a raw, honest Psalm that speaks to the deepest places of our desperation at this time of year. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?…My soul is downcast within me…I say to God my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me?”

It is in the midst of this honest, raw, gut-wrenching questioning that The Psalmist gets his answer, and we get it, too. Verse 5 – “Put your hope in God. “ Verse 7 – “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. “ Verse 8 – “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life. “ Verse 11 – “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

The truth is that many of us face pain and hurt. However, we enter into a Christmas season of indulgence in a way that makes us delay our pain for a season. We numb the pain by turning our attention to sugar rushes, cocktails, over eating, shopping and social settings. Yet, like those who dislike this whole season, our pain will revisit us again.

But in the Jesus’ coming, we see His healing and wholeness. Our pain is not to be numbed, but rather it is to be healed. He extends His wholeness to us and to those around us. In the incarnation he entered directly into the pain and hurt of our world. He knows it and He understands it. He offers healing both to those of us who cover it well and others who do not.

The way to healing is in verse 1. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” In our thirst, our pain and dysfunction, our God welcomes us to be filled by Himself. He welcomes our raw honesty that admits the darkness of our current situation while seeking Him to heal and fill the deepest needs of our souls.

Jesus has come as the gift of God in the flesh. He came as our Redeemer and Deliverer. He came as the Living Water and The Bread of Life. He came as Emmanuel – God With Us. May we drink deep of Him this season and find full satisfaction in Him alone.

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