This is not really where we want to be spending today. There are many reasons we are here with a tray of hospital food, instead of around a beautifully spread table at home with a great big loving family, like all the TV commercials and holiday cards and sappy songs on the radio seem to imply we should be. But here we are.
Some of us are here because it’s our calling, or maybe just our job. The hospital doesn’t close for holidays, and today there are still patients to be cared for, phones to be answered, medicines to be administered, rooms to be cleaned, records to be kept, scans and tests to be completed, equipment to be moved, surgeries to be done, meals to be prepared and delivered. Some of us tore ourselves away from our family celebrations to be here, and some of us are glad to be with friendly coworkers instead of in an empty house. We may show up to work with a holly jolly attitude or begrudgingly thinking of how we need that next paycheck. But here we are.
Some of us are here because of illness or injury. We didn’t plan for the fun Christmas present to land our child in the ER needing stitches, or for our father to have a heart attack while cooking the turkey, or for our partner to drink quite so much. We thought surely we’d be well enough for this long hospital stay to end before Christmas. We thought the ladder was sturdy enough to hang that last set of lights. But here we are.
Some of us know that life will never be the same after this Christmas. We are looking into the eyes of a loved one, or the eyes in the mirror, knowing they won’t be here next year. We are waiting to welcome a new baby, or saying goodbye to the one we so desperately wanted. We know this will forever be remembered in our family as the Christmas of the accident, the diagnosis, the shooting, the fire. We didn’t expect the screech of tires, or the sudden onset of symptoms, or the frantic phone call to bring us to this place. But here we are.
And we hope and pray that here you are, too. No matter how the Christmas movies and lovely Nativity scenes might try to dress it up, we remember that Jesus arrived in a scene more like ours. He was born into a world of hardship, uncertainty, danger, suffering, loneliness, cruelty, injustice, and death. He took on all of it, entered fully into our world in the flesh. For that we give you thanks. All this talk about peace on Earth and goodwill can ring hollow in the halls of the hospital, but remembering that the Prince of Peace was also the Man of Sorrows offers a strange sort of comfort tonight. We ask for strength, for hope, and for the faith to take hold of the simple but profound promise of the word Emmanuel – God with us.
Please bless this food. Bless this place. Bless us all. God, you know we need it.