This is the third week of Advent and our theme is joy. We are challenged to ponder how we find joy when the circumstances of life are condemning us. The story of Christmas generates joy but it’s not quite clear how.
George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” has learned that $8,000 has been misplaced by his forgetful Uncle. George panics, checks everywhere in his office and gives his Uncle a good shake. He goes home distraught. At home he meets more problems. One daughter is practicing the piano and the noise irritates him. His youngest son comes up seeking attention as Mary and oldest son trim the tree. George grabs Tommy and hugs him, seeming to be on the verge of tears. Mary quietly observes. Tommy innocently sprinkles tinsel on George’s head, in a manner we might think of as blessing. Tommy says nothings but receives his father’s tight hug. Just being there, just being a presence is what George reaches for in his distress.
Biblical Joseph of the Christmas story struggles with how to deal with Mary when he discovers she is pregnant. He decides to quietly divorce her but then the angel comes. Joseph will not change the public scrutiny Mary will endure nor his loss of respect if he stands by Mary. As he learns the child is from God, Joseph steps into the role of presence. He will walk with Mary through the unfolding events. He will not abandon her.
Sometimes words are inadequate when we go through a crisis with a friend. As I visit the memory ward daily, people declining with dementia are often beyond being able to respond verbally or necessarily cognitively. I watch loved ones just be present, stroking heads, holding hands, pulling up blankets. Like Tommy, they cannot change the course of the unfolding events but they can be moral support offering love, even if seemingly unnoticed. People go through all sorts of trials that they must walk through but being a faithful presence that testifies to their value and that they are not invisible, is important. Offering a hug or a smile or a cup of coffee or a listening ear can be a great blessing. Mary observes George’s distress and we learn she alerts people of his distress. Joseph stays with Mary.
May we be friends who are faithful when our friends go through tough times when words are inadequate. May we not forget that God is always present, even when we can’t feel him. May we bless them with whatever kind of tinsel we happen to have at hand. Not being abandoned brings hope, peace, and joy!