One of my favorite Christmas carols is O Holy Night. I heard it on the radio the other day and these words jumped out at me:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn
The weary world. I know there have been many times in history when the world has been weary, but this is the weariest I can remember it in my lifetime. We have fatigue. Pandemic fatigue, Zoom fatigue, crisis fatigue, election fatigue…these are all real experiences. I think weary is an accurate word to describe what many of us are feeling in 2020. I looked up some synonyms for weary: they include exhausted, drained, disillusioned, all-in, worn out, my personal favorite: whacked. Sometimes I feel like 2020 has just whacked me in the face. When I look at the word weary I see the word wear, and I think that describes how I feel. 2020 is wearing on me. And I am concerned that January 1 is not going to make all this weariness go away.
I am weary with this rancorous political season, weary of identity politics, weary of the notion that if I disagree with you I must hate you. I am weary of seeing people riot in our streets, tearing down statues and burning down cities. Oh, and I am really weary of people getting offended! When did we become so thin-skinned that there is acceptable speech and anything else is hate speech? I’m not an anti-masker, but I am weary of wearing a mask and of the whole mask debate. Weary of being told what I can and cannot do. I don’t want to be told how many people can come to my house on Christmas Day. And I sure don’t want to be told not to hug my grandchildren. Many of us are weary of job and income insecurity. We are weary for our children, sitting in front of screens all day because they can’t go to school. For those of us who are grandparents saddened to miss milestone events. We won’t get these days back. We are weary of the long lines we see on television for Covid testing and food boxes. And we are so weary of sickness and death and grief. Almost everyone has lost some one or some thing.
When you become weary you get crankier, or at least I do. So even the not-so-important things bother me. I’m weary of this unpredictable football season. My Sooners didn’t get to play last Saturday and it was a disappointment. I was cranky. I’m weary of shortages. The stores are out of such strange things. Peanut butter? Petite peas? I wanted to buy a new Christmas tree, one of those slim pencil trees, but I guess I waited too long because I discovered that there is a shortage of both real and artificial trees. I went to every Hobby Lobby, Lowe’s and Home Depot before I finally found one online, but Wal-Mart summarily cancelled my order! I’m weary of tracking down all the Christmas presents I ordered that are still out there somewhere. Where is my package that supposedly was delivered? And why is there an unauthorized charge on my American Express card? Yesterday I received a voice mail that was recorded on last Monday. Where was it all week? I’m weary of technical glitches. Why did my outgoing email suddenly quit working? And quite frankly, I am really weary of Medicare commercials and Joe Namath’s face on TV!
Yes, I realize that my weariness is trivial. First world problems for sure. I have so many friends and family members who are dealing with major problems, so I feel blessed in the midst of my weariness. This has been a year of losses. For many of us Christmas is going to be different. Maybe there won’t be a family celebration this year because of COVID. Some of us will have an empty chair at the table. Some are facing eviction and don’t know where their table will be. Maybe there has been bad news from the doctor. Some of us are privately fighting battles we cannot share. And none of us knows what is going to happen in 2021.
I don’t think anyone gets to my season of life without some weariness, and maybe it is the weariness that gets us ready for heaven. Haven’t you had moments this year when you have been homesick for heaven? Longing to see Jesus, longing to see those who have passed on ahead of you, but also longing to be away from the trials and ugliness of this world? Well I want to give you some hope today.
I guess I’m not alone in this, but don’t sleep very well these days. That is not a complaint, just an observation. I find that moving to the sofa and turning on the television help me go back to sleep pretty quickly. It’s a surprise if I wake up in my own bed. The other night I found a soothing YouTube channel that plays scripture with a background of ocean sounds. It plays in a continual loop, and the same words kept waking me: “…we are more than conquerors.”
Apparently, the Lord wanted me to really absorb these words, and so I want to share them with you. They are found in the 8th chapter of Romans, along with these familiar words:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
That is a promise we cling to. God causing everything to work together for good. He speaks into our circumstances. The same God who created the universe can redeem even our worst situations. I have been reminding myself to look for the good in the midst of the bad. Because there have been some good things to come out of 2020. We have had more time for the Lord. This shaking that the prophet Haggai told us we would experience in these last days, this shaking is waking us up to what is really important. It is a call to return to the Lord. For me, I have never spent as much time in prayer as I have this year. I am in several different prayer groups, both locally and nationally. And we are praying big bold prayers!!
Paul goes on to tell us that we may have to face many trials and ordeals in this life. We may go through seasons of intense distress. But if we belong to Christ, nothing can separate us from God’s love. Even if we “have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death” (Rom. 8:35 NLT), we are overwhelmingly victorious! We are more than conquerors!
Paul’s words are so beautiful I want to share the rest of this chapter in the New Living Translation:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?… No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The weary world rejoices. Some might ask how that can be in 2020. The answer to that question lies in the words that come right before: the thrill of hope. We have hope! Because Christ came to earth on that holy night we are no longer under the condemnation of sin. We can be in a right relationship with God. And nothing, nothing, can separate us from His love. Even though we may still endure the weariness of this world, we know there is a better world to come. And even death is not the end of our story. So whether we are walking through a difficult season or one of fruitfulness, we are more than conquerors.
Thank you so much for sending your son to come and dwell with us in this weary world. He is our hope. And because of that Hope we can rejoice even in the midst of our trials because we have your assurance that nothing can separate us from your love. Oh how we look forward to the day when we will see you face-to-face. Until that day, we take comfort in the promise that nothing can separate us from your love. We are more than conquerors!
There is a footnote to this story, a God wink. As I was writing these words, Wal-Mart sent me a text. They found my Christmas tree.