Scripture reading: A sound is heard in Ramah, the sound of bitter weeping. Rachel is crying for her children; she refuses to be comforted, for they are dead. (Matthew 2:18)
Meditation: This prophecy of Jeremiah is repeated in Matthew as part of the Christmas story. We often quickly slip over the story of Herod’s effort to protect his kingdom from the new Messiah by calling for the killing of all Hebrew boys, “who had lived in or near Bethlehem and were under two.” It is a hard story which seems to take us on an unwelcome path of sadness and fear in this season of joy. But the journey to Christmas is like all journeys; there are likely to be tears and hard places along the way.
During the 1990s I spent a significant period of time working with people living with HIV/AIDS. Even though I had spent a good portion of my working life until that time working among the poor and homeless, I had little experience in the world of those suffering from this awful disease. I listened as a mother told the story of nursing her dying son in his final days, his frail body ravaged by the sores and disease that had consumed it. I watched a friend waste away before my eyes as the disease, long in remission, cruelly reemerged and recaptured his body. And I sat in stunned silence after hearing the news of another friend’s death from AIDS, knowing that the fear of revealing he was gay had forced him into a lonely and painful death. He had not shared his diagnosis even with us, his friends.
I heard tragic story after story of lost loves and friends, of funeral after funeral, until even the healthy were so exhausted they no longer wanted to go on. We seldom stop to think about the inconsolable grief some segments of our society have endured, and the strength they have shown in the face of this awful scourge. And we seldom contemplate what this nation has lost in the young men and women that AIDS has taken from us. I grieve for the teachers, doctors, artists, dancers, athletes, engineers, and musicians whose life works would have made this world a better place. I grieve for their partners and friends who have been left alone. And I grieve that so many of us did not reach out to them.
Yes, the journey to Christmas requires us to share the grief that only God can relieve, and the hope of Christmas calls us to reach out to those who suffer and seek comfort and peace.
Prayer: Lord, give us the strength to journey with those who are marginalized, and those who struggle with sickness and the ever-present specter of death. Help us to know what to do, what to say, and how to share your gift of peace. Amen
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