Yesterday I was fortunate enough to finally get to go to the Tuna Group. It’s been months since I’ve been able to attend, and I’ve really missed it. This diversely gifted group of eight ladies has been meeting on Fridays at noon for almost ten years. We pray and hold each other accountable in our individual Christian walks. We share as Christians what our concerns have been for the past week. We share as Christians what our failures and successes have been for the past week. We share as Christians what we’ve read and studied during the past week. We share as Christians how we’ve worshipped and acknowledged our Lord God’s sovereignty during the past week. We share as Christians our moments closest to God during the past week. This sounds like a heavy-duty group, and it is. It is the most important group in my life, besides my family. We’ve experienced deaths and divorces and marriages and births together. We’ve cried and comforted together. We’ve laughed and giggled together. We don’t take ourselves very seriously; you can’t if you’re trying to keep your eyes on Jesus. We occasionally have spend-the-night parties and retreats. We wear tiaras on our birthdays. We eat tuna fish each gathering, not out of piety but rather because it’s what Pearlie Mae Lamar will fix.
We were all gathered together in Pat’s library. Some of us sat on the floor, some of us sat on the sofa, and some of us sat in the chairs. A fire burned brightly in the fireplace. It was an especially warm, close time. We’ve had many, but this seemed even more special. I realized how deeply I’d missed these ladies. I couldn’t express it well, but rather they did it for me in the comments they made. They let me go first with my update, for it had been so long since I had been there.
I “frazzelly” shared what had been going on in my life, and then the next person “frazzelly” shared, and then the next.
I thought to myself, “This is awful. This time should be uplifting, not downtrodding.” It was getting heavier and heavier with each person’s update. Then someone asked why – why was Christmas like this?
Judy, who’s our trained counselor and thus when she speaks we listen, said she thought it was because of the myrrh. “Myrrh!” What did she mean? She reminded us that after Jesus’ birth, he received “gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11. The gold and the frankincense had to do with His Kingship, while the myrrh, which was a spice used in burials, acted as a symbolic foreshadowing of His death.
The intermingling, intertwining of the light and the heavy, the light and the dark, the life and the death of Christmas has always been there, even from the very beginning. Oh yes, we try to hide it and disguise it, especially from the children. We turn the Christmas carols up louder in our cars as we go rushing to buy just one more present. We try to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative as we get closer and closer to the D-date of the 25th. “Only 14 more shopping days to go” – zoom, we go. “Only five more shopping days to go” – zoom, zoom, we go. “Only one more shopping day to go” – zoom, zoom, zoom. Is it any wonder that many of us almost crash and burn by the time the Birthday anniversary arrives? I know that was the state I was in at Tuna. I didn’t want to hear “heavy.” I wanted to hear “light.”
But here, at Tuna, we always demand and require from each other the truth as we perceive it at the moment. That is our gift to one another and to our Lord Jesus. And if it happens that one of us is getting a little off our Christian walk, we don’t try to “fix” one another, but rather, try to reflect Christ’s loving truth. That seems to facilitate self-examination, which often empowers a person, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to get back on line.
So here we were, with only twelve more hours left until Christmas, up to our necks in myrrh. I wanted to furiously fight it. I wanted “Ho! Ho!” fluff reports. – “We wish you a Merry Christmas?” – “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells” – “Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, o’er the fields we go, laughing all the way!” – I wanted out of there, for all I was receiving was myrrh.
You know, I believe the cross was present and should be present at every Christmas crèche scene. If there hadn’t been myrrh, there would have been no miracle. The Redemptive Act began with Christ’s birth, but came to fruition through Christ’s death. It’s good to keep the whole picture always in mind, even at Christmas – and myrrh is OK.
I was reminded of this again on Thursday. On this past December 23rd, my husband and I drove two hours to Aliceville, Alabama, to attend Aunt Emmie’s funeral. She’d been sick for almost two and a half years with that awful disease emphysema, and she bravely and graciously carried that cross. Her example of Christian fortitude in the time of sickness was exemplary.
To walk into a small town church decorated with garlands,
wreaths, red bows and funeral flowers was –
To be surrounded by relatives, friends, loved ones was –
To hear the Old and New Testament readings which had been
personally selected by Aunt Emmie was –
To listen to the hymns played and poems read, all
personally selected by Aunt Emmie was –
To watch a five-year-old granddaughter try to comfort
her mama and daddy and big sister by patting them
I can’t think of the right adjectives. Each word that comes to mind falls way short of the experiences.
Loving – humbling – beautiful – peaceful – grace-filled – myrrh-like. It was bigger than life, for it included death, and that’s OK. That’s more of the whole story, the Real Story – Christ’s story and our story – and it is OK.
I know, but more importantly, Christ knows, that many people experience depression during Christmas. Some memories are myrrh-like. We especially miss absent loved ones. Our regrets and failures often become more poignant during this time of year. Many of us are tired and stuffed. Many of us are more aware of the hungry, the needy, the helpless, the homeless, the widows, the orphans, the sick, the lonely, the abused. But it’s OK – the awareness is OK. That’s the main thing I think we need to remember. It’s OK.
So, Precious Pilgrim, embrace this time of year. Allow yourself to feel the whole of the Christmas story. If there’s some sadness, some pain, some regret, some myrrh-like qualities which seem to be coming forth in you, that’s OK. Don’t turn that blasted radio up and try to drown the feelings out. Allow them. They are and should be part of the Messiah’s birth. He received myrrh, and so should we; just don’t hold on to them too tightly. Allow them, acknowledge them, and then release them for there’s more to the story. We’re dealing with a Resurrection story, even at Christmas time, too.
I truly do, Pilgrim,
“Wish you – A Myrrhy Christmas and A Happy New Year.”
For such a Christmas is more like the original one.