Advent Day 23: The season isn’t always joyous

“Just hours after his 28-year-old grandson died, a shaken former President Jimmy Carter broke the news to his Plains, Georgia, church and then taught Sunday School.”

This news really moved me. Not just that President Carter’s beloved grandson, Jeremy, died. But that hours after it happened, the President showed up at his church, shared the news with his fellow congregants, and taught Sunday school.

Several years ago, Rabbi Jeni Friedman interviewed me, along with a bunch of other people, as part of her research into how clergy respond to trauma. As I remember it, Jeni asked me questions which got me to talk about various painful moments in my life, and then asked more questions which got me to talk about how I did during those difficult times.

At the end of our conversation, I realized that when difficult or painful things happen to me, I am most able to be vulnerable and authentic with my church community. Sharing the news with them, being present with them, participating in the work of the community with them – for me, it is a significant part of the grieving process. There’s a certain holding of the pain together, a living out of our shared humanness, that brings healing and hope.
I’m really grateful for the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, GA and that President Carter has a place where he’s known as just Jimmy. Where he has friends and a pastor with whom he can share sad news, and who can love and support him.

And I give thanks for this church community, a place where we can be our authentic selves – happy or sad, joyful or grieving. Today we will hold our annual “blue Christmas.” It’s a Christmas service which lives into the reality that this season can be fraught with mixed emotions. I hope you’ll join us at 7pm tonight.