People are born and die every day. People get sick, recover, worsen, go home, go to the hospital. People buy houses, are thrown on the street. Families are made and families break apart. Good deeds and heinous ones happen.
We are accustomed to this and while some of it touches us, out of a sense of self-preservation we must shield ourselves to a certain extent. You can’t swallow the whole world’s sorrows. We grieve with those people we know who grieving and rejoice with those who rejoice. Mostly we acknowledge that this is the way the world is and we pray. And this is the world into which Christ was born.
At Christmas somehow, everything is magnified. Small things suddenly loom larger than life and our emotions grow proportionately. We find it so much more unfair that people sicken and die at Christmas, more so than at any other time. Because we feel that everything should be happy at Christmas it seems a discordant note that anyone should be suffering.
People do suffer, however. Without pausing I can think of three families who have lost children recently, one as recent as yesterday. In two of those houses there will be no children at all for Christmas. Is this fair? Well, of course not. Why does this happen? Only God knows the ultimate reason behind the sufferings he allows and their timings. I have to believe that God is good even though I can’t explain why things happen the way they happen. The feast of the Holy Innocents is always a struggle for me.
Is it disloyal or wrong somehow to rejoice at Christmas while we know people are grieving? No, we rejoice, not because people are happy, that families come together, that the fast is over, that we’ve received gifts, but because Christ is born. Christ has become incarnate. Truthfully, was this a “happy” occasion? Christ born into human limitations so that he could ultimately suffer and die? I hardly think so. But joy does not equal happiness. We can feel grief and sadness for the earthly loss of a friend’s child, but we must feel joy at their reception into the Kingdom of Heaven. You can be grieving and feel joy at the same time.
I think this is probably some of what the Mother of God felt.
I pray each one of you, whether your hearts are heavy or light, find comfort and joy this Christmas.