Christ Is Born, and Rachel Weeps

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By Trudy Smith

P_Trudy

Women figure prominently in the story of Jesus’ birth. From an early age, I learned about Mary’s unwavering trust in God, and her courage; I was told about Elizabeth’s joy at the fulfillment of a dream she had long since abandoned. Yet as an adult, I find that the most haunting female presence in the story is a woman I never learned about during my childhood—a woman who technically wasn’t even there.

Rachel died in childbirth thousands of years earlier, back in Genesis, but her voice rings out across the millennia. God’s birth into the world is a moment of cosmic significance—an occasion for great joy, to be sure—but Rachel’s grief in Matthew 2:18 grounds the narrative in the painful reality of the broken world God has entered:

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.”

There they are, side by side: salvation and suffering; hope and disaster.

The Savior of the world has been born, yet the people of Bethlehem are not saved from a genocide in which every male child under two is killed by the King’s army, and the Savior himself is forced to flee to Egypt as a refugee. Jesus’ birth is a sign of hope; God’s gesture of goodwill toward humankind. But still, mothers lose babies, homelands are occupied, and death stares humanity in the face.

This is the paradox in which we still live today—this liminal space of the already and the not yet. Rachel’s is the cry of women everywhere who grieve the loss of the children they love because of human greed and the injustice it creates. These women cry out against poverty, preventable deaths, wars in which the poor lose their lives and the wealthy reap the benefits.

The Kingdom proclaimed by the Prince of Peace has already begun, but still the world suffers, and we suffer in it. We wait in desperation for the day that Jesus’ Kingdom will be revealed in full.

What does it mean to celebrate the incarnation in the midst of ongoing tragedy?

It means grieving with hope, because we know that our God suffers alongside us, and that He has turned suffering itself into a means of liberation.

It means having the courage to name and mourn our losses, even as we proclaim with our lives that all will be made well.

It means living as prophets who call good into being, and call attention to the small and tender growth of the new world that is slowly being born.

Immanuel, God with us, let Your presence among us be our strength in suffering. Grant us the vision to see your Kingdom coming, the faith to wait patiently for it, and the joy of helping to bring it into being. Amen.

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About Trudy:

profileimageTrudy Smith originally hails from Texas, but currently lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her Canadian husband, Andy. She blogs about faith, justice, and culture at TrudyDSmith.com, and is currently working on a memoir about the years she spent living and working in an Indian slum. She has previously written for the Huffington Post, Christ and Pop Culture, the ReKnew Forum, and elsewhere.

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  • HeleneBurns

    Such beautiful words Trudy. It always amazes me how the Bible speaks so poignantly through through the ages – the cry of humanity so long ago still resonates today… I am so very, very grateful for His presence and promise with us now… ‘Immanuel, God with us, let Your presence among us be our strength in suffering.’

    • Trudy

      Yes, Helene- those deep realities of suffering, hope, and God’s comforting presence of love are constants throughout human history and are as relevant today as ever!

  • I’ve been reading Isaiah 40 and blasting Handel’s Messiah in my kitchen since the end of November because I need to be reminded of the power behind the promise of another Advent. Today, you’ve reminded me that it is His presence as well as His power that carries us and that gives meaning to the loss and the mourning. Blessings, Trudy.

    • Trudy

      Thanks, Michelle! That Presence has been such a comfort to me even in times when God did not step in to end the suffering. Just being together in the pain makes a difference. Sometimes we need a witness to our pain to be able to find the meaning in it 🙂

      • Justine Hwang

        “Sometimes we need a witness to our pain to be able to find the meaning in it.” Words of grace and hope, right there. Thank you Trudy. I also loved the line about suffering being a means to liberation. I do experience God in suffering, but would often rather be liberated from it; I want to grow in embracing suffering as liberation.

        • Trudy

          I want to grow in that too, Justine! It’s one thing to write about it, but it’s a constant work in progress to actually experience that day to day.

  • Leah Kostamo

    Thanks Trudy, so grateful to have your voice here!

    • Trudy

      Thanks, Leah! I’m grateful for the chance to contribute to this amazing community of women 🙂

  • Melody Owen

    Trudy, again I enjoy your careful explanation and ability to articulate the complexities of our lives. This intrigued me today because of the preparations I’m making to do music at the Longest Night of the year service tomorrow. There is such significance in holding grief and loss at this time of year (and anytime) and an importance of being in pain together. It is a gift to me to be able to do this in part with music and to be witness together humanity in all of it’s forms. Thanks for this, it has helped provoke a certain “mind atmosphere” needed for the next 24 hours.

    • Trudy

      I’m glad you found this helpful in your preparations, Melody. I look forward to entering into the experience of holding grief and hope together through music at the service tonight. Thanks for all of your thoughtful work in putting it together 🙂

  • Roos Woller

    This is so good. I love the phrase ” grieving with hope”.

  • Bridget Baguley

    Thank you, Trudy, for bringing a word of hope, a breath of Spirit-air, into my place of loss and mourning.

    • Trudy

      May the God of all comfort fill you with hope as you walk through that painful, sacred place, Bridget.

  • Holly

    “It means grieving with hope, because we know that our God suffers alongside us, and that He has turned suffering itself into a means of liberation.”
    This line means everything to me. Thank you.

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