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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

To Love and To Cherish

December Anniversary.

Do you know the scene at the end of A Christmas Carol—Ebenezer Scrooge, waking Christmas morning, giddy with relief?

That was my husband yesterday, returning from (yet another) appointment with his surgeon. I’d gone with him to this one, and we’d packed a bag. 50/50 chance he’d be back in the hospital for Christmas. But no. It was a false alarm. All weekend preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. And we weren’t afraid. We’d long ago surrendered to Peace. Surrendered to finding good, even in suffering. But I don’t think either of us realized until after the fact, how even in trusting, there’s this weight of burden, and we’re holding our breath.

Sunday morning, the day between the surgeon’s call, and our Monday appointment, I woke early to read scripture, and Kyle woke early, to pray. He started a fire, and I lit candles. Shimmering light in predawn darkness, Isaiah and Matthew, my Advent texts.

Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” Matthew 20:22

And this whispered phrase, breath of Spirit, hovering there in light and quiet…

“To love is to suffer with.”

Thirty-one years, last Wednesday. We celebrated vows made just before Christmas. Evergreen garland and bridesmaids in velvet, and is it any wonder I tend toward romance this time of year? For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…

And to love is to suffer with.

GOD WITH US. Taking on flesh to suffer, here in our midst.

Last week my son asked me if I planned to get the vaccination. “I don’t know.” I answered honestly, admitting, I’d never before willingly chosen a needle. Nothing principled. Just unholy fear. “But today in the car…” I told Jimmy about hearing this nurse on the radio, imploring people to donate blood. And there it was, clear as audible, Holy Spirit. And this picture. Me, following Jesus. And blood the most obvious gift.

Do I love enough to suffer with?

Everybody has a story to tell about 2020. A long-suffering theme in every narrative. A year, and a Christmas, of so much surrender, all of us feeling the sacrifice. Like you, I am eager for a new year, a fresh start, a happier chapter. But I am GLAD also—and I believe I mean this—for the stripping down, and the suffering with. Refining. Like gold in a fire, and when we rise next year, perhaps we will leave behind the slog of impurities, to be holier people. People whose LOVE is authentic, because somehow we have suffered

With Jesus.

Who. Before he ever reached the manger, emptied himself of every privilege, every right. He was born into blood-stained hay, unimaginable surrender. He came fulfilling prophecy and weren’t those foretellings raw with the promise of suffering love? And blood?

This week we will celebrate Christmas, and it won’t be normal. But like old Ebenezer, maybe the ghosts of what was, or could have been, will be a reminder. And a portent. This life is nothing if not lived for love, received and given. Sweet Babe of Christmas, suffering with us.

Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Philippians 2:3-7 NLT

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