Walter Percy asks these compelling questions in his book The Message in the Bottle: “Why does [modern] man feel so sad…? Why do people often feel bad in good environments and good in bad environments? Why is it that a man riding a good commuter train from Larchmont to New York, whose needs and drives are satisfied, who has a good home, loving wife and family, good job, who enjoys unprecedented cultural and recreational facilities, often feels bad without knowing why?” Perhaps it is because we are all on a spiritual search for ultimate fulfillment and don’t know that it must end in a relationship with God. Many people in their journeys turn to nature and find their souls stimulated by its beauty. However, C.S. Lewis makes an interesting comment in his book The Four Loves: “Nature cannot satisfy the desires she arouses nor answer theological questions nor sanctify us. Our real journey to God involves constantly turning our backs on her; passing from the dawn-lit fields into some pokey little church, or going to work in an East End Parish.” We are easily drawn to the mysterious and the supernatural. We love to read books on the amazing religious conversions of some people in history or how others overcame great tragedy. However, we often fast forward over the years of waiting, disillusionment, pain that formed the context of their exemplary lives. We love to tell the Christmas story in all its splendor and majesty while editing out all the pain, the ordinariness, the smells, and the inconvenience which formed the backdrop of the real Christmas. Could it be that our search for God leads us to the ordinary and the difficult rather than away from it? God came into the grinding poverty and harsh reality of a young couple in Palestine and told them that the Son in Mary’s womb would be the Redeemer of the world. God’s Son was not born in a desert hermitage or in the Roman White House but in the back streets of Bethlehem. There is one more thing about pain and disappointment; not only do they often reveal God but they reveal our own “unsanded” natures. A seventeenth century French mystic wrote, “Slowly you will learn that all the troubles in your life- your job, your health, and your inward failings- are really cures to the poison of your old nature.” Thus the very difficulties of our lives which we abhor are the very means of grace in which we can find God and are the raw materials of our spiritual development. Pain is often God’s megaphone (C.S. Lewis). Many of you are facing difficulty this Christmas; financially, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Don’t give up hope, God is present and He is doing a deeper work in you. May the light of Jesus Christ shine into your darkness this Christmas, and may the grace of our Lord be with you as He uses your difficult circumstances to sand smooth the rough surfaces of your soul.