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Honoring Loss While Expecting Jesus – Devotional


Experiencing pain is difficult in any situation, during any time of year. But it can be especially hard in the weeks leading up to Christmas. While traditions and family gatherings can be wonderful experiences, they can also be excruciating reminders of what once was and is no longer—the life and presence of a beloved relative, the plan and dream of what we imagined our lives would be, the broken marriage or relationship with a son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister.

Sometimes we think our grief and struggle separates us from Christmas and its celebrations. But, what if the pain we’re enduring actually puts us in the story of Christmas?

As the people of God waited for the Savior to be born, they lamented what once was—the obviously active presence of God in their lives, the realized dream of life in the land of milk and honey, the wholeness of doing family, life, and faith together in Israel—but was no longer. They felt like God had gone silent if He was even still present. Their realities were as separate from their dreams as exile was from the Promised Land. They’d lost the sense of home—of their physical homeland and of the settled feeling of belonging.

The themes of this Advent season—hope, peace, joy, and love—were so powerful that first Christmas, because they were so desperately needed. May that be true for you this year. If you find yourself feeling like hope, peace, joy, and love are lofty—even unreachable—ideals…if you’re desperate for them and dare to reach for them…then you’re in the perfect position and posture to experience the power of this season.

Read Job 29:1-6

What used to be and is no longer in your life (a relationship, a dream, a place, a person)?

What are you longing for this Christmas?

Today's Prayer

God, we lament what once was or what we dreamt would be.  We long to experience your hope, peace, joy, and love even while we grieve and lament.  Expand our hearts for those feelings to exist side-by-side.  We desperately wait for your presence in our world as your people waited for your birth so long ago.  Amen.

Hope in the Dark

A great light, or star, announced the birth of Jesus. Jesus is called the “light of all mankind” (John 1:4). We celebrate Jesus’ being the light with lots of lights at Christmas—on our trees, our mantles, our doorways, our homes. That’s appropriate and fitting, because Jesus is light.
But notice what the verse above says about the people. The people were “walking in darkness,” and “living in the land of deep darkness.” You know what that’s like:

  • Since your marriage got tough or ended, you’ve been walking in darkness.
  • Since you lost your job, your home, your friend, your family, you’ve been walking in darkness.
  • Since your loved one passed away, you’ve been living in a land of deep darkness.

Darkness is reality for you, and it’s the reason for Jesus.

If humanity had been walking in light already, then they wouldn’t have noticed the dawning of a great light. It wouldn’t have brightened their worlds. But that wasn’t reality when Jesus was born as a baby in a manger, and it’s not your reality now.

It’s because of your walking in darkness that seeing the great light brings hope. It’s because of your living in the land of deep darkness that you need a great light to dawn.

It’s only in darkness that we can bask in the beams of a great light, that we can delight in its dawn.

What’s it been like to walk in the darkness? to live in the land of deep darkness?

When have you glimpsed the dawn of the light of Jesus?

Isaiah 9:2

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

Today's Prayer

God, it’s cold, scary, and lonely living in this land of darkness and walking in the dark. Thank you for sending Jesus—the light of all mankind—into our world. Give us eyes to gaze at the light. Let it brighten our worlds, even just for moments as fleeting as dawn. Amen.

Peace That Doesn’t End

This prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah says that one day there will be no end of the greatness of his peace.

One day.

Not this day.

And not that day—the day you knew it was over, the day you received the devastating news, the day they took their last breath. You’ll never forget that day. It’s turmoil, anguish, world-altering commotion is etched in your memory. It’s a defining moment in your life. It was devoid of peace. It was the day peace perished, or at least paused, in your world.

But peace will come again. There will be a day when Jesus, the Prince of Peace, will reign with a peace of which there will be no end.

Until that day, we enjoy moments of peace. As our Wonderful Counselor listens to our struggle, stays with us as we grieve, and comforts us in our pain, we get a parcel of peace. When our Mighty God moves in our world and our lives with his power, we get a portion of peace. When our Everlasting Father reminds us that our pain is temporary, but our lives with him are eternal, we get a piece of peace.

When did peace perish, or pause, in your life?

When have you received a parcel, portion, or piece of peace?

Isaiah 9:6-7a

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.

Today's Prayer

Prince of Peace, thank you for the moments of peace we enjoy. Grant us peace as we struggle through this Christmas season. We look forward to the day when your peace will never end. Amen.

Joy in Refuge

Refuge.  It’s something people seek when their lives have been turned inside out and thrown upside down.  When they’re forced to leave their homes, when they’ve messed up and fear the impending consequences, when they’re alone, afraid, and out of options, people seek refuge. 

You know a bit of what that’s like.  You know the longing to feel safe and secure again—physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually.  Life has not turned out like you’d hoped, and it’s left you vulnerable.

God offers the vulnerable among us refuge—a safe place to land.  Though we live in a world where evil, illness, injury, and accidents exist, we do not live here alone.  God is with us.  Once, God was with us on earth in the form of baby Jesus.  When adult Jesus left this world about thirty years later, he promised that he would be with us always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). 

In the refuge of God’s presence, under the spread of his protection, we can still be glad.  We can still rejoice—not in our circumstances—but in our Savior.

What protection would you ask God to spread over you?

What song can you still sing to rejoice in Jesus, to express joy, even while you seek refuge?

Psalm 5:11

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Today's Prayer

God, we seek your protection for ourselves, our loved ones, our community, country, and world. We know that we live in a broken world, and sometimes we still suffer. Thank you for offering us refuge. We will sing for joy and rejoice in you even while we vulnerably wrap ourselves in your presence. Amen.

Love and Lament

There’s nothing like walking into a home where you know you are welcomed and loved no matter what you’ve done or how long you’ve been gone. Many people will experience that unconditional love this Christmas season as they cross the threshold of Grandma’s house or their childhood home.

Of course, there’s also nothing like not having a safe home of unconditional love to walk into this Christmas. Whether social, physical, or relational distancing makes that impossible for you this year, it’s an experience of grief, of loss. Sometimes it looks like being alone in your home; other times it looks like being alone even though you’re surrounded by people who share your DNA.

Struggle often isolates. As you lament your current circumstances, it can be hard to love others. While we lament, we can be hard to love—by other people, that is.

But God both hears our laments AND loves us. He’s the perfect combination of lament and love. He hears the cries of our broken hearts and still loves us. He sees us when we’re broken, hurting, and hurtful and welcomes us into his presence. No matter what we’ve done or how long we’ve been away, we can always come into the presence of the Lord. We can always come home to the one who created us.

Read Psalm 5:1-7

Lay your lament out for God.  

What words and cries for help do you want Him to hear?

Today's Prayer

Consider bowing your head in the presence of God and offering this prayer:

Lord, hear my cries, confusion, fears, regrets, and struggles. You are my King. You are my God. I’m so grateful to be welcomed into your presence. Thank you for your unconditional love. I seek to share that kind of love with others. Amen.

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