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Unspeakable Loss
 “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
Jeremiah 31:15b
Christmas Day has come and gone, and it can feel like what remains before us is the task of packing away the joy and the lights, and making resolutions that we will struggle to keep. The feasting is finished, and so are the many tasks of preparation. So, if you are anything like me, there is finally time to feel things, to sit in the morning, coffee in hand, watching the squirrels play in the trees and evaluate the year gone by.

Today is Holy Innocents Day on the Church calendar – where we remember the slaughter of babies by Herod in his pursuit of security, power and control, no matter what the cost was to his people. The day, somewhat helpfully, falls at a time of year when many of us have time to think of the things we have lost in 2021: the things of beauty and things that were tarnished, the things or people we have loved that have altered in some way, or situations that have been changed forever. For me, this day takes on new meaning as a new(ish) parent. This time last year, we were in the hospital in a nail-biting four-hour ritual of blood pressure checks— just seeing if it would be the day we would meet our daughter, and it would be so much earlier than what we expected. I remember all the fear that accompanied that. This year, I have seen many dear friends miscarry, stood by families who have lost their babies in infancy through sickness, prematurity or tragedy. I have stood by parents losing children – something that at any age feels deeply wrong in the order of things.

We are a culture adept at pushing away grief and sanitizing it: we rarely tend the bodies of our family members after death; we cover the dirty earth around a graveside with nice green plastic grass. Caskets are often absent from funerals in favor of a memorial service; mourning periods are generally not adopted by the people at large. We have become so adept at making death a part of life that we can easily forget that this is not how it was meant to be. God created us to walk in the garden of His presence forever, choosing a life of tending and gardening, fellowship and beauty.

I pray today that you would find time to mourn the things of 2021 that have broken your heart, just as Rachel wept for her children. I also pray that you would remember that the Christ Child, the Immanuel, the God in the neighborhood who hears your weeping, calls you to walk and talk with Him in the garden that He may bind up your broken heart, and pour the oil of gladness into your mourning (Isaiah 61).
The Rev. Jane P. Ferguson
Associate for Family and Student Ministries
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