Ruth Jackson recalls her experience of miscarriage at Christmas and reflects on experiencing pain, fear and doubt in a season of celebration and frivolity

This article was written last year and originally published on ABC Religion’s website

This time last year, I was grieving the miscarriage of my first child. Christmas is a particularly difficult time for those facing loss. The celebration, frivolity and merriment seem to somehow exacerbate the heartache. Then throw into the already tumultuous emotional mix the image of a baby “born to save the world”. The questions immediately arise: Why couldn’t or wouldn’t this divine baby save my baby? Did he not care about this little life? Is a god who allows terrible things such as a pandemic, natural disasters and miscarriage worth believing in?

Fast forward 12 months and I find myself in a very different situation. As we approach Christmas, I now hold a small baby — conceived not long after that first bereavement. However, while I’m obviously looking forward to celebrating her first Christmas, I still wrestle with many unanswered questions. Can the child in a manger bring any hope to a suffering world?

One of the biblical verses that is often read during carol services at this time of year is John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” This is a pretty remarkable statement. The Word, God, doesn’t reside in a distant celestial palace removed from pain and contamination. In the person of Jesus, he chose to come into the mess of this world.

The carol ’Away in a Manger’ assures us that the baby Jesus didn’t cry, but I don’t buy it. My newborn never seems to stop crying! And Jesus certainly cried later in his life. The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). One of his best friends dies and Jesus’ response is exactly what ours would be — he weeps.

The Bible also says that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ sweat was like drops of blood. He may have been suffering from a rare medical condition where the capillaries around the sweat glands rupture under extreme distress. Throughout his life Jesus appeared to suffer pain at every possible level: physical, psychological, spiritual. While this by no means eliminates our own pain, the biblical picture shows us that whether we are encountering physical sickness, mental health struggles or spiritual doubt — Jesus has been there. Jesus not only knows about but has actually experienced the depth of human emotion.

The fact that God chose to reveal himself as a vulnerable baby surrounded by animal waste and a rag tag gathering of weirdos, rather than an omnipotent warlord or malevolent supervillain, may be a comfort to us this Christmas. But what use is this fragile child in alleviating our pain?


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The crying baby isn’t the end of the story. We’re told that Jesus went on to experience an excruciating death and, after three days, rose from the grave to open up a way out of our suffering. The Bible begins with a poetic picture of creation. The garden of Eden is painted as an idyllic place where God draws close to his people. The subsequent narrative arc hints at the destruction of this creation and the damaged relationship between humanity and God. 

When we arrive at the final book of the Bible, we see hints of Eden’s restoration (Revelation 22). Revelation 21:4 epitomises this future hope: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” The God who weeps is portrayed here as so tender that his own hand will wipe the tears from our eyes.

We named our baby girl Eden to serve as a reminder that loss doesn’t have the final word. The name Eden assures us that no matter how broken life seems, there is always hope and ultimate restoration.

As I lay baby Jesus in my nativity set (once I locate him amidst the boxes of baubles, tinsel and half broken candles), I’ll ponder whether I’ve found an answer to why my first baby died. Yet, I wonder if an answer would actually ease the grief.

When Eden grows up and inevitably falls over, I don’t imagine I’ll explain to her why she’s fallen — I’ll likely just pick her up and hold her. Likewise, I’m not sure the Christmas narrative necessarily provides a perfect answer to why we’re suffering, but it does reveal a God who picks us up and holds us close. Who weeps with us, who died for us and promises that this pain is not forever.

This article was written last year and originally published on ABC Religion’s website.


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Ruth Jackson is a producer and youth specialist for Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? radio programme and podcast. She hosts The C.S. Lewis Podcast with Professor Alister McGrath and Unapologetic.