We’ve been told to “count our blessings” particularly when we are feeling down. Reminding ourselves of our blessings and the good things that we have and that we are lifts our spirits. God has indeed blessed us in countless ways. We have loved ones who care, talents we share, and we have the gift of life itself from our Creator God. Through our senses, we take in the boundless beauty and variety of our world. And deep within us, we have a spirit of creativity, consciousness, wonder, and gratitude.
Suppose that we also “count our losses.” No! Too depressing! Who wants to intentionally bring ourselves down? In a season of a pandemic or just reading the news, it is easy to feel sad. This is why many people do not stay up on current events, do not vote, do not volunteer. They protect themselves and their feelings. Many feel they cannot cope and they do not want to feel even worse.
But the reality is, we already feel sad or even guilty about the state of our world. Many feel bad about refraining from engaging or caring. We are already grieving our personal losses, our shortcomings, our mistakes. Grief is already deep within us if we have any notion of the racial division and violence in our nation. By now, a significant proportion of our populace knows someone who has been seriously ill or died from Covid19. Many have experienced job loss or reduction of income or disruption in their lives due to the pandemic. We HAVE losses and DO feel the grief. This is a very real part of our lives whether we choose to admit it or not.
Some believe that their losses are unbearable and must be avoided. “Keep a stiff upper lip” is their motto. Grief appears to be a bottomless pit of despair. Who wants to explore that? Yet, the remedy for grief is not running from what we already feel; the remedy is naming and counting our losses. The balm for our souls is admitting what is real and what is true, even when it makes us feel uncomfortable. It is so important that we do not “paper over” our griefs, but honestly acknowledge their reality. We can embrace them in a way similar to Jesus’ wise counsel to “love our enemies.”
This is the miracle of love: that when we recognize the shadows and our fears, our griefs, and our tears, we will find God already there, with us in our sadness, in our loneliness, in our guilt. Emmanuel, God is with us, is the Good News of Christmas. This gift of Christmas is one that is promised to us and comes to us when we open our hearts. Opening our hearts comes when we honestly admit “the hopes and fears of all the years,” of all our years, are met in Christ tonight, tomorrow, and always. In counting both our blessing and our losses, we honestly present our lives to God, and to ourselves, just as we are. May this Season of Christmas be a celebration of embracing the greatest gift of love ever: Jesus the Christ, born anew in each of us for the transformation of the world. Let the light of love burn bright!
PS: For those who are congregational leaders, this process of honestly facing our realities is the same for congregations as it is for individuals. It is at the Heart of the Vital Congregations Initiative as well as the presbytery’s Mission Assessment Process or any discernment process. May honesty and trust, in love with kindness, be at the core of our ministries as we serve God.