I remember the day. We were newly married and living in a quaint New England seaside town. It was idyllic, surrounding us with red brick and hand-painted wooden signs above shop doors. The deep blue of the water mesmerized me.
It was a delightful summer day, and I decided to visit a local farm stand. It was so beautiful. Why would I waste such surroundings by driving? I would walk there. I’d get good exercise. I wouldn’t be pumping exhaust into the clear blue sky. I’d walk to get my local produce and carry my purchases on my back. I slipped a backpack onto my shoulders and set out—a young bride living an enchanted life, breathing deeply the salty air.
It was a bit longer than I’d anticipated. Once I left the cozy town streets and moved further away from the water, the day became hotter. I began to question the wisdom of my decision, but I pressed on—I was so close.
When I pushed open the wooden doors, I felt victorious. I remember buying berries that day and carefully stacking the containers in my backpack. Everything else is lost in my memory. The shopping and produce-selection a success, I set out for home, rejuvenated, with the bounce once more in my sure steps.
It didn’t last long. I’d naively underestimated how far it would be to walk two miles there and two miles back. I hadn’t accounted for the sun beating down on me as I walked along the road. I hadn’t factored in the weight of my fruit and vegetable-laden backpack, pulling at my shoulders. I (foolishly) hadn’t brought water. These I could have—and should have—accounted for. On top of it all, though, was the beginning of a sickness I hadn’t fully experienced or recognized the effects of, a sickness that would strip me of my energy and strength for the next year and a half. I didn’t know the debilitating sway it already had over me.
My steps slowed. My back ached. My mouth was dry and the back of my throat begged for water. My legs were leaden and muscles sloppy and aching with fatigue. My mind slowed and blurred, narrowing its focus to the effort it took to take one more step closer to home.
When I reached the brick streets once again, I was grateful. So close. When I rounded the last corner and saw the windows of our apartment, relief washed over me. I could make it the last block. My legs trembled as I climbed the stairs. By the time I turned the key in the lock and stepped into the apartment, my entire body shook from weariness. My eyes filled with tears as I poured a glass of water and collapsed onto the couch. I was home. And I rejoiced.
* * *
Do you know what it is to be weary, friend?
Perhaps you have experienced the weariness of body—that mind-numbing fatigue when you think you cannot go any further, when you must simply give up and sit down on the side of the road. Or perhaps it’s been a weariness of spirit—when discouragement, pain, and sadness darken thoughts and emotions and you can’t seem to muster the will to get out of bed, to smile, to hope.
That word—weary—jumped out at me this year in the words of the Christmas carol, “O Holy Night.” A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
Oh the relief that comes when weariness is lifted. When you reach the end of a long journey you didn’t think you’d survive. When you can finally settle into rest. When your longing is satisfied. The rejoicing that comes is not the exuberant sort, with jumping up and down and screaming. The face of this rejoicing has heavy-lidded eyes and a smile made faint by fatigue—but its joy runs into the deepest parts of the soul.
This Christmas, we rejoice in the thrill of hope that infused a weary world. Our world is still weary, groaning under the effects of sin. We stumble along under the weight of conflict and sickness. We bear the yoke of death and pain. We are weary for redemption—and creation itself cries out with us.
But our hope has come. The Hope cradled in a manger. The Hope who lived, died, and rose again for our redemption. The Hope who will return again in glory. He is the Hope that dispels the clouds of our weariness. Who gives us rest. Who satisfies our longings. Who brings the end to the reign of sin and death and the beginning of the Kingdom of Life and Peace.
So, we rejoice. We treasure this thrill of hope. We keep it nestled in our weary hearts. For Christ our King has come.
Thanks be to God.