Christmas is a time of great joy for most people, but it is also a time of sadness for those who have lost loved ones and for those who are separated from their families. My husband tends to reminisce about his younger years with memories of large family gatherings and feels sorrow during this time of year, now that most of his family members are gone. This is the time of year that he misses them the most. Seeing him so sad got me to thinking about something that I feel compelled to write about regarding our sidewalk witness and prayers at Planned Parenthood.
I started thinking about the real source of our joy at Christmas time. Even though Christmas is very much connected with sharing the joy with our family and friends…and can be a lonely time for those who don’t have anyone to share it with…our TRUE joy should be the celebration of the fact that God humbled Himself by coming down to Earth as a tiny baby to save all of us. It is the most wonderful, miraculous and amazing thing that could ever have happened! We are totally lost and in complete darkness without Him. We have no hope unless we have Christ, our Savior. He left the majesty of His Throne in Heaven, to be born, shivering in the piercing cold, in a filthy dirty stable, surrounded by animals. He was laid in a feeding trough as a crib. (A foreshadowing of His giving His Body to us to eat in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.)
So even though many people may be feeling sorrow during this time of year, if we keep our focus on the MOST IMPORTANT THING…we will keep our joy, even in the midst of the sorrow.
This is what got me to thinking about our sidewalk ministry, and the tendency for people to start out very enthusiastic, but to lose hope and give up after a while. Many people who get up their courage to come and pray and witness in front of Planned Parenthood don’t persevere in their initial enthusiasm. Eventually, they get discouraged and quit. It is true that the genius of 40 Days for Life is that there are built-in breaks in between campaigns, which helps protect against burn out…but for the year-round sidewalk advocates and 40 Days for Life 365 volunteers…discouragement and burn out are a real danger. Why is this? I think it is because we not keeping our focus on the most important thing! If we go to the sidewalk for the sole purpose of wanting to save lives from abortion, we are bound to get discouraged and give up. Saving lives is a very good and noble desire…just as wanting to share the joy of Christmas with loved ones is a good and noble desire. But it should not be the primary purpose! The REAL REASON for us being on the sidewalk is simple. We are there because there is a terrible injustice happening there. It is happening to the very smallest, weakest, helpless and most vulnerable of all our brothers and sisters, and as Christians, God calls us to be a voice for the voiceless and to rescue those who are being led to the slaughter. We do it because it is the right thing to do. We please God by our sacrifice and our suffering, in love for Him and for our pre-born brothers and sisters. We do it because they deserve it. Even if we never see a baby saved, we show up and pray.
If we make our focus all about what we should say to the mothers and fathers…”What are the perfect words that will save a baby“…”What is the best signs to hold and the best literature to hand out“…we are bound to get discouraged eventually. Most likely we will not persevere long-term.
We need to learn how to experience joy in midst of sorrow. It seems a contradiction…but it is possible when we keep our focus on the most important thing, which is Christ. Following Him. Obeying Him. Doing our best to please and honor Him.
We have an opportunity to witness the joy of Christmas in the midst of sorrow at Planned Parenthood during our annual Christmas Caroling Event tomorrow (Dec. 18th) at 9am. Come and join us as we shine the light of the Christ Child and bring joy to those who are in despair. We may save a life…or we may not. But our focus will be on the most important thing, and that most important PERSON, who is our focus…will never let us down!
God bless you all during this most joyous season of Advent and Christmas!
Your sister in Christ,