My lesbian friends are visiting parents this year - together. And, the pain is often great. One family insists that they sleep in separate rooms, another has twin beds for them, and one family says they aren't comfortable with their staying in the home. Most can't afford lodging elsewhere; so they sleep apart (and what are you going to do in your parents home except sleep, especially when you know the disapproving parents are next door or just down the hallway, or worse in the room underneath you?). Some don't go at all even though their parents are aging; some try to find room with accepting cousins or aunts. Some try to make the journey in one day. Those with children have it hardest. What do you say to a young child who wants to visit Grandma and Grandpa?
On Tuesday, a friend is burying her brother who died of colon cancer. She will be holding tight to her mother who says, "This isn't how it's supposed to be." He leaves two young children.
A memorial service will be held for one who took his own life - a choice he made because the pain of living became too great. We can speculate about causes: Vietnam, lack of family support, alcoholism, drug use, purposelessness.
So, as we prepare for the ritual birth of the Christ child, the baby who was God and human, life goes on with all of the pain, the deaths, the natural disasters as usual...except with a little more of all of it - the joy as well as the sad.
God came to earth to be with us - Immanuel - God with us - God did not come to take away the pain or the death or the joy or the desire. God came to teach us how to choose life. For life is breath and God's first act was to breathe upon the emptiness and chaos. Ruah in Hebrew.
I quote from a poem I learned long ago about friendship: "take what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away." May God with you be the breath of life that helps you sift the pain and the joy, keep what is worth keeping and with steadfast love and compassion blow the rest away.