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The Weary World Rejoices

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

The soft, white glow of the lights on the tree. The smooth crooning of Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole. The silver and gold of the classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The feeling you get when you see those first few flakes of snow.

Watching Jimmy Stewart run down the street in the falling snow wishing Bedford Falls a 'Merry Christmas'. Tearfully laughing as Buddy screams in delight at the announcement of Santa's imminent arrival being made in a department store. The nostalgia of seeing Ralphie Parker on his quest for an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.

It's Gingerbread houses. Christmas cookies. Christmas carols. Logs burning in a fireplace and sitting with a warm blanket.

It's the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the unmistakable feeling that only comes around this time of year.

It's Christmas.

I look forward to this season every year. I treasure it all.

Now, I enjoy Spring and the rejuvenation the world experiences as life blossoms (my allergies hate it, though). And don't get me wrong, I love spending time by the ocean listening to the crash of the waves in the summer heat - head crammed into a good book.

Christmas, though, is distinctive. It's special.

The aura of Christmas begins at Thanksgiving and crescendos until it culminates on Christmas morning with furious present-opening intermingled with shouts of joy and laughter. There's food and drink and revelry. There's wonder and excitement.

But this year...

This year has been so different.

Instead of escalating joy there was only intensifying sorrow.

Instead of merriment there's only been misery.

Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.

This year, I actively avoided Christmas. For the first time in my life, I wanted no part of the songs or the lights or the cookies (okay, maybe one or two because who am I kidding). Seriously, I dreaded the whole season.

After Thanksgiving is finished, I normally leave my radio on the "Christmas station" until January. This year, I rode in silence. I didn't want to be this way. In fact, I tried really hard in the early going of things to carry on and conjure up some Christmas Spirit, but it was no use.

The problem is, Christmas was one of Dad's favorite holidays. Dad listened to Christmas music year round. He loved being with his family as they opened gifts and especially enjoyed watching Clark open presents and playing with him with his new toys. He lived to go see Christmas lights and watch Christmas movies.

Unfortunately, this means the entire season is a glaring reminder of the emptiness in our lives.

There are many people who feel the exact same way this holiday season. It's our first Christmas without ____________.

And it hurts.

I happened to catch somewhere O Holy Night, that quintessential Christmas tune, and I listened to Josh Groban sing out those memorable lines - a thrill of hope - weary, yet rejoicing.

And I thought, "That's me!"

I'm so weary.

I'm fatigued. I'm exhausted. I'm jaded. I'm fed up. I'm upset. I'm barely hanging on.

All of the things - I'm it.

The weary world rejoices. That line stuck with me and the question I had was - how? How does a weary world rejoice in the midst of heartache? How can we, or how can I rejoice when it feels like everyone around me is in anguish and are hurting? How do you rejoice and delight when there's so much pain?

I think the answer today is the same as it was in Bethlehem thousands of years ago:

Christ is born.

A thrill of hope. Christ's birth was unprecedented. Four hundred years passed between the closing verses of Malachi and the opening of the Gospel of Matthew. Four hundred years of prophetic silence. Four hundred years of a Divine quash. Four hundred years of wondering why God was distant from His people.

During this time, the Jewish people fell under Greek, Egyptian, and finally, Roman rule. They anticipated the day where they could be a free people again. They suffered and longed for Messiah - salvation from pagan lordship.

When Christ came into this world, they received so much more.

We all did.

Yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Christ's birth threw down the gauntlet of traditional divine relationships. God was no longer far off and unapproachable. God was now with us. Immanuel. And He did not come as a conquering warrior or a valiant king. Christ arrived as the most vulnerable of us all - a baby. His entrance was exactly like all of humanity's and thus set the stage for His miraculous life and sacrifice.

A new and glorious morn dawned. A thrill of hope captivated the heart of his mother, Mary, and the shepherds and wise men. Messiah has come.

That's how they rejoiced. The prophet Isaiah foretold it - unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. The government is upon His shoulders. He is a Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

In the depths of despair, light has broken through.

It's only been recently that I've been able to find a little bit of the joy of the season. Every sight, smell, and sound hasn't brought more heartache. Dare I say, I have found myself even rejoicing at times. There's now a thrill of hope.

Hope that it gets a little better. Hope that the pain eases. Hope that there are yet glorious things God has in store for me, my family, and for you. Christ's birth highlights this fact: the story isn't over.

God is moving.

God is working.

God is doing something new and remarkable.

For those of you who have lost loved ones or are struggling this holiday season: I pray the God of all peace comforts you in this time. I get it. I wanted to lash out at the absurdity of it all. I wanted to scream into the void until my voice was gone because it was so unfair to be subjected to Christmas without my dad. Maybe you feel this same way. It's okay to feel this way. We're hurting and you absolutely feel what you feel.

But God has been slowly reminding me that the pain is a pathway. I don't fight it, I acknowledge it and I give it to Him. I surrender to the baby lying in a manger because I know He knows my end from my beginning. Before time began, He was. John declared this when he said in the beginning He was with God, the Word made flesh.

He's the Author and Finisher of my faith.

He's Christ the Lord.

And though I'm weary from grief, I rejoice in Him and the hope He brings.

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