Recently, my husband surprised our family with a weekend trip celebrating my birthday. On one of the days we went for a hike. My son planned it and said it was a moderate 2.7 miles with some elevation. He had confidence we would be able to do it and in my younger mind-older body, I thought I could as well.
Nothing like a decent incline to tell your rapidly beating heart just how out of shape you truly are. As my husband and I struggled, my son kept encouraging me, telling me I could make it. Along the way up the rocky incline, he offered to take my backpack while still carrying his own. When I handed over the backpack to him, the weight lifted off my back was so freeing. The instant relief of the extra weight gone breathed new life into my aching feet and worn-out body.
The past nine months of this pandemic has given both parents and children a heavy burden to carry. Fear, grief over what has been lost, anxiousness, and anger have taken root in the deep parts of our souls. What could have been and should have been has breezed past us. We continue to wait for normalcy, but it never seems to come. As parents, we find ourselves having to assist with schooling our children and trying to navigate our own disappointments.
But even in this turmoil, we have hope that we can depend on, One who will carry our burdens for us and relieve us of the heavy weight. We need to be reminded of this hope not only for our own spirits, but our children need this as well.
In Isaiah 9, God shared with his prophet of the coming Messiah to the worn-out Israelites, embattled from war. While they had been walking the weary road of oppression, God promised them hope was coming. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6).” The Israelites could rest in the hope they had for their future, even though their current situation was difficult and at times unbearable.
In Luke 1:8-15, we find the fulfillment of God’s promised Savior. An angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds who were tending their flocks. Weary from the burden of ensuring the safety of their flock, the shepherds were suddenly surrounded by glory of the Lord shining brightly around them. They were terrified. But the heavenly host of angels gently bent over them and sang, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy to you that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Lk 1:10).
It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, good will to men
From heaven’s all gracious king.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Arriving quietly on that still evening, the promised gift was born to take the weight of our sins and sorrows and carry those for us. When we carry extra loads, our minds become clouded and, in our weariness, we become less effective parents. We can bring the needs and transgressions which weigh so heavily on our spirits and give them to Jesus, who can heal us. In our unloading, we also teach our children this gift of giving our burdens to Jesus. We all need to unpack our heavy baggage and give it all to the One who can carry it for us.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to train them up to bring their own sins and burdens to God in confession and repentance. Our role as parents should be to constantly point them to Jesus so they too can claim and receive the life-giving hope only Jesus can provide. We do not take on the burden of our children’s lives as our own; their relationship with Jesus is between them and Him.
All ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look, now! For glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing!
As we continue to wait with hope of Jesus returning, when we will live eternally with him, free from sickness, sadness, and death, let us unload our burdens to the One who can carry them. As we reflect on this Christmas season and the current state of our world, may we always turn to the Hope that came upon a midnight clear.