For several years, the Christmas season has filled my heart with struggles more than any other time of the year. Holidays often seemed harder to bear when my husband and I were timing them around fertility medications and bloodwork. Then five years ago, we miscarried our first little baby at the end of December. Then the self-inflicted pressure I felt during the holidays only complicated my struggle to make it through the daily weight of depression and grief after we miscarried a second child in 2013.
Many people find the holiday season especially heart-wrenching. The empty seats around the dinner table and the absence of loved ones amplifies the pain that we may push away in our busyness for most of the year. We feel especially barren. Especially broken. Especially empty.
“…And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.'” Matthew 12:15-21
The LORD is Near to the Brokenhearted
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
We come to the season of evergreen and twinkle lights, but we feel more like a bruised reed than a fresh branch. Our heavy hearts feel more like a faintly burning wick than a winter candle’s glow.
But in our weakness, He lifts our head to the lowly manger, to the One in all our trials born to be our friend. Our omniscient Father knows our need, and to the One stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted, our weakness is no stranger.
Jesus fulfilled the beautiful prophecy of Isaiah 42:1-4, and when the swaddled baby grew up, this God-Man’s heart was that of His Father: “Comfort, comfort ye my people” (Isaiah 40:1). His hands touched the unlovable, and His heart swelled with compassion for the hungry, needy, weak, and broken among us.
He Carries His Lambs in His Bosom
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11
Jesus, the lamb of God, is a kind and loving Shepherd to us. His mercy is tender toward the grieving, the ill, and the depressed. He gently and closely carries the woman whose hopes are dashed and whose heart is shattered.
He does not crush the bruised reed. Dear soul, he was crushed for the bruised reed.
He does not snuff out the dimly burning wick, because He was born to live a life and to die a death cut off and extinguished — snuffed out. Despised, alone, and rejected, He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows so that, in Him, we might hope.
He Is the Hope of the Nations
“And again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” Romans 15:12
Because God fulfilled His promise and plan of redemption, the baby was born, laid in a manger, and visited by shepherds. He was the Chosen Servant, the One who brought hope not only to Israel, but to all the nations.
We languish and groan in this body. There may be no hope of restored friendship, a reconciled family, or a healed and whole body. But in our hopeless situation, we recall to mind that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. In our unending battle and grief, we believe Him that his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is the faithfulness of the Gentle Shepherd, and our soul boasts: “The LORD is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)
The tender mercies of God are new each December morning, and every morning. The humble Lamb has borne our sorrows and griefs. He was despised, but we are loved. He we rejected, and we are chosen. He was crushed so that we might be accepted. He was poured out unto death that we might have life.
And the weary world rejoices.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13