Of Fridays Past & Future Joy

“It must have been sad when Jesus died,” I remember thinking, as I went through Good Friday services as a child. Even at a young age, I thought of Jesus’s friends and followers, of Mary Magdelene and Peter and doubting Thomas, of how Jesus told John to look after his mother, as he hung from the cross.

But Sunday always came swiftly, ever beautiful and painted with spring, making us all happy again.

I remember one Easter in particular, when I was quite young. It was the first time I’d discovered the Easter bunny and it was a glorious morning indeed. I couldn’t believe my eyes at the chocolate trail leading from my room to a pile of presents in the living room. It was a gold mine. My own gold mine. I was so excited that I picked up my sister’s chocolate, too!

And I recall these strange thoughts running through my head, as I contemplated my childish joy. I often spoke to myself aloud and I did then. I remember saying, “I’m not going to sing again,” “I’m not going to play dolls again,” and the like. I still don’t understand exactly why I said those words. But perhaps suddenly, as I was hit by that sweet five-year-old bliss, I thought I’d got it all, I thought I didn’t need to keep on trying, I thought my joy was complete at last.

That was a long, long time ago now.

Now I sit in church on Good Friday, watching a beautiful service unfold, much like the one it was last year. It’s one of five services happening around town and so various members of the church community gather in my own place of worship today. I enjoy the beauty, try to worship, and contemplate it all.

But I’m distracted, caught up in the memory of Fridays past. Of Easters gone by. My thoughts lead me far through life and back again to the present as the band starts up again and we take the communion cup.

I’m wearing black today. But I remember a Good Friday when I wore a light blue dress and greeted visitors at the door. I was just a baby then, in my faith, in my growth, in personhood. There were so many things then I had yet to do and know and learn. My immaturity, the poor decisions, the bitter disappointments of past days haunt me as I sit in the pew. Sometimes I hate to think of what and who I was. But I remember the fragrant joy with which I had towards life, and the love I was growing for God and church and people, the love that was only beginning, the love that still churns now.

“And if only I knew then…” So many things. So many words. So many problems.

Four years ago, I was fifteen, sitting perhaps in the same row, in a blue dress. I remember the older Dutch man who became a friend to me and my family that year and that day in particular, as he helped us greet folks at the door. But that was four years ago and a lot can change in time and now he’s not even here and he won’t be coming back.

“It must have been sad when Jesus died…” I think again. I’m sure it was, for his friends and followers. But then He rose again.

I remember that dear old Easter when a trail of chocolate made my little heart soar high. He came to make our joy complete.

I remember the person I was yesterday, last year, and four years ago. The pain, the mistakes, the strife. He came to change us, to set us free, to give us life.

I remember the ones who have died, the ones who will never sit in church pews again. I regret, I mourn, and I wonder. He came so that we might never die, so that we could live forever, so that we could find perfection with Him.

Good Friday reminds me of the strife of this world. It reminds me that there is something better, even than a living room full of chocolate. And with it all, I remember the joy past, and most of all, the joy that is yet to come.

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Hope Amidst The Humbug

December rolled in this week and with it, the beginnings of Christmas. The first Sunday of advent came and went, a candle was lighted, and the kids in sunday school started practicing their Christmas Carols. I got ingredients for the shortbread and snowballs and other goodies that I like to make and worked hard all week with rehearsals for my next play, A Christmas Carol, coming up in just ten days. Forgetting the 25th and all it stands for was not a possibility this time. 

However, I found the Christmas cheer a bit harder. It isn’t painful this time. I’m not sad or grieving like I was last year. It’s not that, yet I usually don’t feel like the happy person that most people make me out to be every single second of the time. I haven’t felt sad per se–just tired, lonely, confused, and restless. I often just feel like saying, “Bah! Humbug!” to it all, as Scrooge would.

Today, it was all pounding on me. I wanted to wake up at 7:00 but I slept in until 8:30 instead. I felt like writing but the words wouldn’t come. At a show promotional, I almost felt like I would fall asleep while singing Christmas Carols. When I came home and tried to do something productive, I only lazily watched my favourite episodes of The Waltons. And I struggled with odd feelings and sinfulness and desire for things for ahead in my future and again I said “Humbug.”

But just like Scrooge, my heart was changed.

I marched in a parade tonight, for Christmas, that very event that seemed to start it all. My feet were frozen even in their ski socks, and I looked like I had an outdated fashion sense in my Dickens costume but suddenly, I didn’t care. I saw people I knew and I waved to them, the music played as we walked along and I sang it loudly. I looked around me at my other cast members and I felt joyful. My friend beside me smiled harder than she has in a while and proclaimed that she was happy. There was no humbug in that moment.

God rest ye merry gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ your Saviour was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we have gone astray. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy. Comfort and joy! Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

The singing did not leave my lips as easily as it normally does. Tonight, the words resonated with me and I heard this old song in a new way. It was telling me to rest, for Jesus Christ had been born, to save me from Satan’s power. Oh, comfort and joy indeed! No more humbug for me!

I’ll be the first to admit that life is hard and sometimes I really do get tired of living. I don’t pretend that joy comes easily to me because it doesn’t–that is, without Jesus. But with Him, joy is true, it is real, and so very comforting.

So may God rest you, this holiday season and always. No more humbug! Jesus was born to save us!