Holy and Here
Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. —Hebrews 4:14-16
This morning in the cold, I awoke in the dark to the sound of sirens. Lots of sirens. They zoomed past our apartment, leaving in their wake the quiet of early morning, with just the pattering of icy snow hitting the window and the occasional whistling of the wind.
When we got out of bed an hour later, once the sun had risen, more sirens were passing. Soon it seemed that every fire engine in the Jiu Valley had passed by. “Something must have happened,” we agreed, watching the snow swirl outside our window.
It had. An explosion in the coal mine in Uricani, in the early hours of the morning, had trapped four men inside. Three of them were rescued, though with serious burns across their faces and bodies; their chances for survival are unsure. The fourth was lost. When they finally found him a few hours later, buried in rubble, he was already dead.
The Uricani mine isn’t even operational anymore—it had been declared dangerous and is in the process of closing, a process that is supposed to be finished by Christmas. Just a few weeks remain of making sure that those kilometers of tunnels in the depths of the earth will rest in peace. Christmas is not so far away. But closing a mine is a long and dangerous process. When it doesn’t happen well, it can collapse from within, sucking down buildings on the surface into its depths. This has happened here. Accidents happen often in coal country. Another one happened just a month ago in our own town.
The pain is acute for those who knew the men lost—the victims were young, in their thirties, with wives and children. But the pain also runs deep for local communities, burdened with the knowledge that soon the mines will resume operation, and men will step back onto that elevator, descending into the pit, every glimpse of sun potentially their last.
It’s a community’s pain—the years and years of sleepless nights for women whose husbands are deep underground; the temporary relief of seeing them return in the morning, eyes smudged with the heavy eyeliner of coal dust; the ever-present knowing that the next night they’ll descend again.
It’s a community’s pain—the broken bones and aching backs and missing fingers and persistent coughs; the disease and physical deterioration that make miners retire in their forties, their youth used up for the extraction of coal.
And it’s a community’s pride—the solidarity of knowing this pain together; the honest hard work of these men; the shared grief and relief and joy; the knowledge that their work produces a result that is useful, that is precious.
A friend who had not had any meaningful interaction with Christianity asked me recently to describe my faith to her. “How do you know it’s real?” she asked. “Why did you choose to be a Christian specifically, and not, I don’t know, a Buddhist or something?”
The words that came out of my mouth surprised me. “Because Christianity has a God who suffers,” I said. “I don’t think I could worship a God who didn’t weep, who didn’t know what this feels like.”
Christianity is a triumphant faith, sure—we know that Jesus rises, tramples death and the grave, and will eventually defeat all evil and make all things right. But, in the meantime, we wait. We wait for his coming again—the Son of God who came first as a baby to this evil-soaked planet, an act of love and hope, in some ways like our conceiving a child into this same scary and unsure world today.
“God made flesh” means that this too is holy—this dark night is holy because he is here in it. As the icy snowflakes swirl angrily outside, and as a community mourns and faces the fear that is always wrapped up in the beauty of life in our valley, we know that God feels it too. We know that our tears and fears are known to him, felt by him. He became human; he knows what it is to ache with exhaustion and tense up with fear. And yet, he makes it holy.
God, thank you for loving us enough to have put on skin and flesh and come to dwell among us. Thank you for showing us grace and truth in the midst of a world that feels so broken and dark sometimes. Thank you for understanding our brokenness and sorrow, for feeling the pain of our living in darkness, and for walking with us through it. And thank you for your promise—however distant it may sometimes feel—that you are redeeming everything. Amen.
Kelly Organ is a partner missionary with Resonate Global Mission, working with New Horizons Foundation in Romania. She coordinates the international replication of the IMPACT youth development program, linking partners around the world while also trying to stay rooted in the community she has come to love in the Jiu Valley.