A psalm for the sad.

Several days ago, I sat by the bed of a dying woman, same as I often do as a chaplain. But, of course, this time it was different. It was my mother.

I am not alone in my loss this year.

Many of us read the passages of words of joy the third Sunday of Advent, the one most often called Joy and feel off. We listen to the radio and we hear songs about “the most wonderful time of the year” and “Joy to the world” and we struggle with the demand to be happy. We struggle with feeling judged if we are not.

People who have suffered loss don’t want others to be sad. Many of us have really mixed emotions. But we’d rather not be scolded for being sad.

Some of us turn from the happy psalms like 146 which was read last Sunday Psalm 137.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?

If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.

Sometimes the holidays feel like torment. We long and ache for home.

But the presence of Psalm 137 in God’s hymnal offers us a little lifeline in our grief, that God will not condemn us for not being happy, that God will not leave us during our season of lament.