Editors note: I originally wrote this post three years ago around Christmas time. Yesterday a very good friend of mine received devastating news about the health of a family member and I had to remind myself of the truth of these words below. Life is hard all year round, but the pain of hardships can intensify at Christmas. But hallelujah, Christmas is a wondrous miracle all year round as well. If you are grieving this Christmas, I am praying for you.
I am a girl who loves Christmas. I love the day, I love the season, I love reveling in the wonder that God’s Son came to earth to save us as a tiny baby. My third child was born on December 17, and when I cuddled him as a newborn, it made Christmas extra-special. I tried to imagine Mary cuddling and nursing her newborn child and trying to wrap her mind around the fact that this tiny baby whose life for nine months had totally depended on her would now be saving her. And all of us. The Messiah as a swaddled babe! Incredible.
I myself have never had a Christmas season that was not filled with joy. But I know, as life twists and turns, that one day there may come a December when I don’t feel like celebrating. Where life will be hard. Where I will be in such turmoil that Christmas lights and tinsel might seem like an assault to my very being.
I’ve never celebrated such a Christmas. But I know someone who has.
Ten years ago, my sister-in-law’s father was diagnosed with leukemia on December 5. It was a “do-not-pass-go, head directly to the hospital to start chemotherapy” deal. By the time Christmas came along, he had been close to death several times. His family had said their goodbyes once even … but he hung on. For our whole extended family, it was hard to feel exultant joy that Christmas. My niece who was nine at the time, wrote “Please, Jesus Please” on the chalkboard in my parents’ home. My mother left it there for years, that sweet plea of a child to her Savior. It was a Christmas of intercession more than anything else.
Christmas evening that year, I arrived home weary after our multiple family Christmas celebrations. We had a wonderful day, but we were all “Christmased out.” Then I sat down at the computer and read these words from my sister-in-law’s mother. They are words I will never, ever forget.
“Our family Christmases have always been filled with traditions. That is not a bad thing. It helps bind families together.
This year all the traditions that were so important have been set aside. Nothing is the same. And yet, Christmas came. Quoting from Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, “It came without ribbons. It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming. It came! Somehow or other it came just the same.”
We know the reason it came is because of God’s indescribable gift to us. Jesus left the glory of heaven to come as a baby in a manger. His every physical need had to be cared for by another. What humility! He came to go through the ugliness of death on the cross so that we can have life everlasting.
We understand a little more this year about what Jesus did for us. Jerry’s physical needs have to be met by others. It is humbling. We have seen physical death all around us in the Marrow and Blood unit at the hospital. It is ugly! All of which makes the birth and death of Jesus more dear to us as we focus on the hope (certainty) of heaven.
We are rejoicing with you this day that Christmas is so much more than what we usually make it. It really is all about Jesus, God’s indescribable gift to each of us.”
Christmas is so much more than we usually make of it.
We make it about presents and lights and amazing Pinterest creations.
But it is about Jesus, God’s indescribable gift to each of us.
Maybe this year you are experiencing a trial at Christmas. Maybe you have lost a loved one, or are yourself fighting for your life. Maybe one of your children or your spouse has broken your heart.
My friends, what I learned from my sister-in-law’s courageous family is this: It is the trying and devastating times in our lives that make Christmas all the more joyful, beautiful and wondrous.
Because of Christmas, all those trials will work together for good. Because of Christmas, we will one day be in a place where none of earth’s ill can befall us. Because of Christmas, what’s broken can be made whole.
Because of Christmas, we are blessed when we mourn! This is the good news we can cling to in the midst of trials … even when we are covered in tears at the foot of our Christmas tree.