Sorry and Sorrow
[Jesus] took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
As I mentioned previously, we don’t often think of the stories of Jesus’ adult life and ministry as we prepare to celebrate his arrival—and we certainly don’t consider moments like this one: Jesus filled with anguish and pressed to what seems like an emotional breaking point—Jesus at his lowest. That scene doesn’t lend itself to greeting cards, ornaments, or Christmas hymns, but it probably should. I think we need to remind ourselves not only of Jesus’ humanity but also of the very real depths he would go to after arriving. He would end up desperately fearful in prayer. He would find himself deeply grieving the loss of his friend Lazarus. He would be enraged enough to flip the tables of the temple vendors. He would be exasperated with his hardheaded students. This morning I started typing the word “sorrow,” and before I could finish, my computer changed it to “sorry.” I know computers don’t have religious biases, but as a lifelong Christian, I think that sounds about right. We often feel like we need to apologize for (or at the very least conceal) our lowest points, our deepest anguish, our most human moments—as if such abrasive things are inappropriate or unwelcome, as if they somehow need to wait outside while we pretend that all is merry and bright within and around us. I love seeing Jesus at his lowest, and to hold such moments in my heart this season, because it reminds me to make room for my sadness and my grief. Christmas is as much the valley as the mountaintop. It is the wedding celebration and it is the funeral procession. It is a joyous, expectant birth, but it’s also feeling troubled to the point of death. You get to have all of it. Today, sit with the full breadth of your story—and don’t be sorry for your sorrow.
Printed with permission from Pavlovitz, John. Low: An Honest Advent Devotional (pp. 22-23). Chalice Press.