ALVEY: God turns wailing into dancing

Published 10:11 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2017

By Jack Alvey | Alvey is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

They say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” While this might be true for a number of people, especially children, this time of year is extremely difficult for many. Most of us will experience some kind of financial stress and hardship. Even more, this time of year is especially rough on those who have lost a loved one.

I know from personal experience that it is difficult to grieve during the holiday season, at least openly. We are expected to show up to all the parties with a smile on our faces. We feel pressure to say, “I’m fine, thanks for asking.” However, we are secretly falling apart on the inside. We secretly want to crawl into bed and come out next year.

I remember well the first Christmas following the death of my father. I was 17 years old and my twin sisters were 16. My mother, who was known for being sentimental, created space for us to deal with our grief that Christmas.

She asked us to write letters to our dad telling him what we missed most about having him around.

When we were finished with our letters, we put them in Dad’s stocking, and they were to be read on Christmas Eve. While I don’t remember what anyone said specifically, I do remember how we were all reduced to tears.

In a real way, this experience helped our family acknowledge our grief so we could get on with the Christmas celebration. At the very least, we didn’t have to walk around feeling so alone in our grief.

Even more, we could live with the hope that God will turn our “wailing into dancing.” Psalm 30 goes on to say, “weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

In these moments of hidden grief, I am reminded of the tomb of Jesus Christ. As scripture tells us, the tomb of Jesus Christ is sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers.  Likewise, we are often convinced to seal and guard our tomb of sorrows with defense mechanisms, with smiles, and with platitudes.

We are terrified of what might happen if someone sees our broken heart.

However, as the empty tomb tells us, only when our tomb of sorrows is opened and shared in the light will there be an opportunity for weeping to turn into joy.

Jesus, the one who gave his heart and his life to us, emerged on the third day to tell us once and for all that our hearts won’t say locked up in grief forever. There is hope. There will always be hope.

During this holiday season, pay attention to your grief; pay attention to the grief of others. Chances are you are not alone. Look for ways to create space in your home where others can share their grief in ways that help everyone get on with the celebration of Christmas.

In the end, pay attention to how God is turning your wailing into dancing in the most unexpected and unpredictable ways for there you will find the most wonderful gift of all.