“Where, O death is your victory? Where O death, is your sting?’The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10b-11)
We Shake With Joy
By Mary Oliver
We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body
As my daughter brought a new life into the world on October 8, my sister Sheryl left this world on October 13. I held baby Mo with joy and at the same time tears of grief washed over me. The above poem by Mary Oliver describes the conflict of grief and joy in my life this year, and I think, the lives of others in our Lifesprings community.
We hold grief and joy together in our hearts.
I’ve thought of this frequently in the past year, and as Christmas drew close, I began wondering about the tension between grief and joy. Mary and Joseph probably felt this within their own hearts as they received the news of her pregnancy.
The angel Gabriel visited Mary saying, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.” “Sure, it is great that the Lord is with me…but what is coming next?”…then Gabriel continues, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.”
Mary’s first response is not necessarily joy but “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” So many thoughts must have been swirling around in her head! She may have thought about how this might look in her community? What will Joseph think? Why me? There must be other older, wiser women who have found favor with God. She was probably about 14 years old, maybe a bit older, but very young to be given this responsibility. Thankfully Joseph was a “righteous man” because legally he could have brought her before the elders and had her stoned. What a dilemma for this young man and woman! (Matthew 1:19) It was after the initial shock, then possible grief about the situation, that both Mary and Joseph individually submitted to the Lord’s plan for them.
Knowing from my own experience, the conflict of emotions probably were like waves on the shore, ebbing and flowing. Maybe joy came for these two willing servants after obedience? Maybe after the birth of the Messiah?
We do know that Jesus’ birth brought about great joy for all people! The angels sang “Glory to God in the Highest”, the shepherds glorified and praised God, Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God, Anna the prophetess also began to praise God and the wise men were overwhelmed with joy. Joy came, but the rest of the story is mixed with joy and grief. Grief when Jesus was crucified, and then joy again as Jesus rose from the dead and now lives!
This Christmas we celebrate His birth. A savior for the world. “God with us!”
Have you held joy and grief together in your heart? I’m not sure the grief ever completely goes away, but the reminder of our hope lives on as we remember and share the “good news of great joy for all people!”
Prayer of response:
“May the Lord comfort the grieving this Christmas season. May our joy be realized in the birth of our Messiah, ‘God with us'”.
—Submitted by Stephanie Edsall
(Stephanie and her husband Mike are blessed with three children and seven grandchildren. They have been on staff with the Navigators for 40 years and currently reside near Boston, MA. After living in several states and spending four years in Bratislava, Slovakia, her current ministry keeps her traveling between Europe and the US, meeting and mentoring another generation of workers in God’s Kingdom.)