It crept up on me.
No, not Advent. Or Christmas.
Strange that it should creep up on me; I read a lot about depression. I’ve studied it as a layperson for years. It took me awhile, but I saw it in people I loved. And then, as a pastor, I wanted to offer help to friends in Church who struggled with depression. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of it. I saw how depression creeps into a life after a series of tragic events. I understand how depression would strangle its victims from one overwhelming episode that threw your world into a tailspin. I learned, too, that depression could be the unwelcome experience through your gene-pool, a hereditary gloom that seized control uninvited. And from a clinical perspective, I became familiar with the science of the brain that disrupted patterns involving the finely-tuned chemistry within itself.
Sadly, I used to look down on others who were depressed, thinking that they were weak. Forgive me for that. Now I know better.
Moody. Melancholy. Downcast. Blue.
There are many words we use to describe it. Depression isn’t anything new. The great and the not-so-great have struggled with extended sadness throughout history.
I was reminded that my favorite Advent song expresses this very same kind of heavy heart. We sing the song each year – as a longing to encounter the powerful grace and love of our heavenly Father! [In the United Methodist Church, we prepare for the celebration of our Savior’s birth with four weeks of anticipation! The four weeks of Advent prepare the Church and its people to properly put the magnificent miracle of God’s human-encounter with mankind into our lives in a unique way!]
The tradition in our High School choir was to begin the Christmas concert with a very moving presentation of the hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” And if you pay attention to the mood and words to that song, you hear the agonizing expression of longing.
O come! O come...! Ransom me! Save me!
There is the need for hope in the discouragement; for light in darkness. A cry for life ...while we acknowledge our dying.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
It is only the Messiah that can save us! Only the power of the most high God can make us new again! In fact, the name Emmanuel means “God with us!”
In time, we too, will find courage rising up as we dare to reflect the refrain of that powerful song:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.
For those of ancient Israel, the Savior was expected. For us, the promised arrival is fulfilled! So in the midst of the emptiness or joyless season which you have endured through this Covid pandemic, know this: 1) Any despair or lingering sadness is not your fault. With that said, let us learn to manage it in a healthy way. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Find a friend who will listen and love you regardless what is happening. Talk to your Doctor or schedule time to see a counselor. Let’s move beyond the stigma of counseling to value what these professionals can offer.
2) Trust in God. The One who created you and me has come to encourage us and influence us with the presence of grace and love not found anywhere among the flesh! Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33) And the One who overcame the world – wants to reside in you!
Is there room in your heart for Jesus to reign as Lord and King? Through prayer, you invite Him in, confessing your need and your sin. And with this prayer, this becomes the most lovely of Christmas celebrations ever – receiving the gift of Christ and His life, God’s intended gift for everyone!
If you are wrestling with a lingering mood disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact me. [304.638.4840]
-Pastor Kevin Lantz
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Steele Memorial United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 346
733 Shaw Street
Barboursville, WV 25504