Having been present for the birth of Matvey, Martin and Lukas, I know that it can be difficult to see someone you love hurting, especially when you feel mostly powerless to do anything about it. You know that this is the way it should be and you have reason to hope that in the end everything will turn out alright. But in the meantime it's not easy to witness suffering...and you wonder what it must be like for those directly impacted by the pain.
As I write this on the evening of Christmas Day, I am once again feeling pain for those whom I care about. While I was not personally acquainted with the victims of yesterday's plane crash, this loss is particularly disheartening. The Alexandrov Ensemble (one of two groups to use the title “Red Army Choir”) represented the Russian musical tradition both at home and abroad; it's numbers were cut by more than 1/3 in a blink of an eye. And on that plane to Syria was Dr. Elizaveta Glinka, “Dr. Liza” to everyone here. She was an American citizen as well as a Russian citizen, and I hope that with her death more will be informed about her life. Dr. Liza felt like an ally...or, to be more precise, she made you feel like you wanted her to consider you her ally. She was incredibly dedicated to bringing medical care to those who needed it desperately; she started in the field of palliative medicine (doing much in the 2000s to, for the first time, bring hospice care to people's attention) and then, over the past few years, concentrated on those in need in the war zones of eastern Ukraine (“Donbas”) and Syria. She was one of literally two or three people in the country who have fought for human rights successfully and without compromise in a way that draws public attention on a national scale, including the attention of the country's leaders. Just a few weeks ago she received a government award for her work and in her speech used the opportunity to acknowledge that it is risky work, but ultimately we have no other real choice than to believe that the power of good will overcome.
Here in Russia, where the majority of the country's Christians follow the Gregorian calendar, many people are still waiting for Christmas. Even if Christmas Day is behind us, though, to one degree or another we are still all living in the midst of labor pains. The church's tradition reflects this – marking the massacre of the innocents just days after Christ's birth. The hard truth of this and every season is that a full-throated celebration of Christmas is almost impossible while the labor pains continue. Our faith calls us to trust that new life will come. In the meantime, though, our call is not only to witness the suffering, but to do all in our power to ease it, whether that be by singing as a member of a choir, healing and advocating as a doctor / human rights advocate, or in whatever way God has called each of us to be instruments of the Kingdom. Every day that we are given.