Joy and Sadness – AdventPhotos (2015#19)

19 12 2015

  Those two words don’t really seem like they go together, do they? At first glance they appear opposite one another – an “either/or” condition, not “and.” But then again, when I saw today’s theme I instantly knew what picture said joy and sadness, both equally complete and residing in my heart at the same time, neither diminishing the other.  

This is a photo my of of my husband’s brother, Colin Kelly; Junior or Junebug to family & friends, and Uncle Bug to all the nieces and nephews. I’ve known him since he was a baby, our dads have pastored in the same denomination and districts since the 1970s. He was such a funny toddler, forever wanting to give everyone the preacher handshake, running around Lily Lake Campgrounds like he owned the place. He was the baby of the family, and was the last to start his own family, so for years he was the fun uncle to all of our kids – not the slightest whiff of “grownup” to spoil the bliss. I’m still not sure how many “no” movies my girls were able to sneak in under his strict oversight:-). And then in 2007, He and his wife Missy were blessed with a son. 

This picture is of Colin, but I didn’t take this picture today, I couldn’t. He died suddenly in March, 2008 so this is our 7th Christmas without him sitting with all the sibs, grandkids, and greats around the tree while His dad reads the Christmas story.  

He loved, loved, loved Christmas, all of it. The decorations, the food, the music, the movies, and the Christchild. So when I see this picture of him, at Christmas, in my heart it’s everything all at once. All the funny, crazy, sweet, sarcastic, politically incorrect, gentle, loving, generous memories of him flooding through my mind and my heart is filled to the brim with joy. The joy of knowing him, of being part of his family, of having my kids blessed by how much he loved them. There’s simply no room in my heart for one ounce of anything else but joy. Yet at the same time, my heart is somehow equally filled with sadness. Sadness that he won’t be here again this Christmas. Sadness that his wife has to take their son to visit his daddy at the cemetery. Sadness that the fabric of our family has been forever altered by his absence. But the sadness doesn’t erase the joy that overflows from the lifetime that preceded his death, anymore than the joy can eliminate the sadness that has followed his death. Both states existing completely and simultaneously, in the same space and at the same time. I don’t really understand how, but I know it’s true.  

That seeming dichotomy makes me think of the mystery of a King who was also a helpless baby. A person, fully human who is also fully God. Not God one day, person the next day. Not 50% God, 50% person. Completely God, AND completely man, 100% of both, in the same place at the same time. How can that be? How could God really be just an ordinary person like me? Once again, I don’t really understand how, but I know it’s true.

We probably all have someone missing from around the tree and table this year. Someone whose memory brings utter joy, and at the same time, their absence brings utter sadness. As you find yourself in that place of Joy/Sadness, I’d like to encourage you to not shrink away from any of those feelings, but to allow yourself to be inspired by the awareness that in these things that exist beyond the capacity of language, these things that only the heart can know, that is also where we can grab hold of the mystery of this God/Man who came to earth, who is in heaven and yet here. Who is already here, but not yet returned. This is a place where we can gain a glimpse of the heart of God.