Monday, December 22, 2008

the problem with christmas

The news story of the Christmas season in Cincinnati has been a devastating accident with our friends at Crossroads Community Church on the first night of their Christmas production. One of their performers fell from a flying harness and was in critical condition through the night. She passed away in the morning. A couple from our small group was at the production and shaken; they called us immediately. I was at the Vineyard at a run-through for our {Re}Gifter show. Our crew prayed for everyone. I emailed Brian Tome, pastor of Crossroads, as soon as I got home just to let him know we were praying for him, his team and the community there. I can only imagine the pain, the second-guessing, the what-ifs, the questions. I have one simple guiding principle: when one part of the Body hurts, the whole Body hurts. The next couple of days some of our pastoral staff and volunteer prayer team members were at Crossroads to be available, to practice “with-ness”.

On Friday, one of our volunteer bass players, a young guy named Trentin Manning, died in a car accident driving to a gig in Toledo, Ohio. Trentin was a talented musician, recently interviewed in a national musician’s magazine, full of life, full of worship, full of promise. I loved watching him play.

Saturday night there was an armed robbery at a Best Buy next door to our campus. The police showed up at our Student Union during our high school and middle school celebrations and did a lock-down for safety reasons. Parents were a little freaked, but everyone was okay.

Last night I was in the hospital until 2am with a VCC person who, without going into details, is in a very desperate place emotionally.

What a strange week.

As a communicator, it creates an odd emotional context for the delivery of the message of the beauty and power of the Incarnation. On one hand, you’re painfully aware that Christmas for some people will be seen through a particularly clouded lens for years to come. What is intended to be a joyous time becomes a reminder of a loss, a pain, or a moment in history that has claws attached. As a friend of mine who’s been divorced for years told me: “(we) fight loneliness all of the time but this time of year it is our personal tsunami.”

On the other hand, there is The Big Message: Light has come into the darkness.

It seems to me that the only way we can shout that message honestly is by allowing the light to shine into the darkest memories, the darkest moments, the darkest present times of our lives. Perhaps we create “counter” memories to reboot our OS. Perhaps there is an “embracing of suffering” that creates a sharp, empathetic outward-focus. Perhaps sheer declarative trust, as when the Psalmist boasts: “Lord, you have brought light to my life; my God, you light up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.” (Psalm 18:28–29 NLT).

Really?—an army? any wall? You have to admire that kind of “My dad can beat up your dad” talk; it’s got to have a spiritual endorphin effect. This psalmist has experienced something that causes him to brag on his God.

Or perhaps we simply have to figure out our own extremely unique connection between personal pain and God.

One thing for sure: if we hang on to the Truth through the night, I think it makes our message more authentic in the day. And probably more potentially attractive.

Merry Problematic Christmas, everyone.


  1. it is indeed one messed-up Christmas this year.

    I'm glad to be part of a larger community that embraces its hurting brothers and sisters.

    We might be down this Christmas season, but we certainly aren't out when - as we say at Vineyard Westside - Love Wins and darkness is pushed away in the act of "with-ness" as you said.

    Much Love, Dave. Thanks for being you.

  2. Great post. We must all be on the same wavelength this time of year ~ wondering how to "do" suffering in the midst of a gospel of hope.

    I love that we're part of a community that has to be Bold. The more bold we live, the more we can dare to share our brokenness, and the more we are healed.

  3. Hello Dave. Since moving to Xenia in 2006, I lost track of Trent Manning. Today, I Googled for Trentin Lee Manning and was shocked to read of his death in your blog. A gifted young man he was and a brother in Christ. Dude's doin' the Big worship now. God is Good all the time and I will miss Trent for just a little while. Then I'll be asking him for lessons. Peace.