Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Are you enjoying the last few days of visiting with family, as we are? Or chasing end-of-year sales or gearing up to go back to work on Monday? If you have some leisure, these recent online finds have much good to share. Maybe one or two will pique your interest.

A few related to Christmas:

Handel’s—and Jennens’s—“Messiah“, HT to Challies. I didn’t know that Handel only wrote the music, not the words to his famous oratorio, “The Messiah.” Here’s a look at the man who wrote the libretto and why he did.

An Idaho boy married the girl he sent an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox to, HT to Laura. Sweet story!

Competing with Christmas? I like this idea of leveraging the “fun” aspects of the season rather than seeing them as a competition for the spiritual side.

Wise Men: Gentiles Who Sought the Savior. I enjoyed this look at the Magi, the reminder that salvation has always been available to Gentiles, and the contrast between the reaction of Jews and Gentiles at Christ’s birth. I was particularly intrigued by the “bookends” Chris pointed out in the gospels. For instance, myrrh was a gift brought to Jesus at His birth and ointment was poured on Him not long before His death; He was called the King of the Jews by the wise men but not called that again until the crucifixion. I had known those as separate facts but never thought of them as bookends.

When Love Is Hard to Give, and Harder to Receive.

A Weary Mom Rejoices. When the world seems too much, it’s good to rest in the only One who can do anything about it.

That Might Preach, But…it might be not accurate, or the main message of the text. HT to Challies. “In our desire to make Scripture ‘preachable’ we import uncertain meanings into the text, while ignoring glorious truths that are actually there.”

A Fragrant Offering, HT to Challies. “It is through our willingness to bear the sufferings of others that people will see Christ. As we do, we become a pleasing aroma to God and the ones we love. The prevailing aroma of Christ pours forth in and through us.”

Still Looking for That Better Country, HT to Challies. Really interesting perspective from a missionary living in a country she’s not a citizen of, comparing that to our living in the world yet being a citizen of heaven, warning herself against the settling-down that can take place as she comes to her own country.

To Serve God in Heaven Will Be a Great Reward, HT to Challies. I’ve often wondered about that phrase concerning serving God in heaven. “Service is a reward, not a punishment. This idea is foreign to people who dislike their work and only put up with it until retirement. We think that faithful work should be rewarded by a vacation for the rest of our lives. But God offers us something very different…”

‘Advertising breaks your spirit’: the French cities trying to ban public adverts, HT once again to Challies. Yes! I can’t condone public vandalism in the name of stopping advertisements, but I agree with pushing back against being assaulted by advertising in every nook and cranny.

And finally, interesting footage of a seagull who stole someone’s GoPro. I’m amazed the owner got it back!

Happy Saturday!

A Perfect Christmas

(Photo courtesy of Bev Lloyd-Roberts at the stock.xchng.)

Most of us have a vision in our minds of the perfect Christmas: family gathered around, a clean and sparkling house, a beautifully adorned Christmas tree with piles of lovingly chosen presents underneath, a feast for the eyes and the table, scents of roasting turkey or ham, pumpkin pies, apple cider, everyone marvelously getting along like the end of a made-for-TV movie.

But what if that’s not reality this year?

What if one member is in prison? Or the hospital? Or overseas or across the country? Or in heaven?

What if a lost job or a major medical expense has led to a depleted bank account and bare cupboards?

What if grief overshadows joy?

Is Christmas then ruined?

Let’s go back to that first Christmas.

Mary and Joseph away from home in a strange city. They did not have a beautifully decorated house: they did not even have a hotel room. The only scents of the season were those of nearby animals. Mary, as a young, first-time mother, did not have the blessing of a modern hospital and sanitary conditions, a skilled nursing staff and childbirth training. Giving birth was painful and messy. If Joseph was her lone attendant, he would have been out of his element helping a woman deliver a baby. Perhaps he was dismayed or frustrated that he could not provide better for her in her moment of need. And after the blessed relief of a healthy child safely born, there was little acknowledgment of this Child. The shepherds, Simeon and Anna, and, later on, the wise men rejoiced in who He was. But soon the young parents would face the danger of a king bent on killing the Child in their care. Mary’s reputation would suffer as many thought her Child was illegitimate. The ominous promise hung over her head that a sword would pierce through Mary’s own soul.

What did Mary and Joseph have then, that lonely, uncomfortable, smelly night? They had the Child of promise. A Child whom they were told to name Jesus, which means “Jehovah saves.” His very name is a promise. He would reconcile them to God by taking care of their greatest need: He would “save His people from their sins.” They had the realization that this Child was the long-awaited and longed-for Messiah, the King, the Son of the Highest. What cause for joy and wonder! They had no idea how it would all work out. But they had the promise, and because of the promise, they had hope.

It’s certainly not wrong to enjoy a decorated tree, presents, wonderful food, and family gathered. But we can celebrate Christmas even all of those elements are missing or less than ideal. We can celebrate in our own hearts and with those around us that same promise, that same hope. Like Mary, we can treasure these things and ponder them in our hearts. Like the shepherds, we can make “known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” and go back to daily lifeglorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2: 17-20). If all we have is faith in Jesus’ fulfillment of the hope and promise of that first Christmas, we are blessed indeed.

(Revised from the archives)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul,
Happy Now, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire)

God With Us

Our church is reading through Matthew this month. Luke’s account of Christ’s birth is more detailed than Matthew’s compact version. But one thing that stands out to me in Matthew’s telling is at the end of chapter one.

After reassuring Joseph that Mary is still pure and her pregnancy is of the Holy Spirit, the angel says: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Then Matthew adds this comment:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus was to be the baby’s name, but He would also be called Immanuel. The prophecy Matthew quoted was from Isaiah 7:14, written around 700 years before Matthew’s book.

We often zip by that phrase to get to the next part of the narrative. But the fact that God is with us is so significant, I want to ponder it for a moment.

God was with His people in full fellowship and harmony in the garden of Eden. But then they sinned and were sent out of the garden. Sin separates from God. He is always omnipresent, everywhere at all times. But that complete, harmonious fellowship was broken. He made a way for people to be reconciled to Him through Christ, but Jesus’ sacrifice would not take place for thousands of years. People in the OT looked ahead to what God would do to redeem them. People in the NT and our day look back.

God told Isaac: “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you” (Genesis 26:3).

Israel became God’s chosen people, known especially because their God was with them. He was not a block of wood or brass set up in a tent. He was a Spirit who led and protected them. After one of Israel’s most grievous sins in the wilderness, before they came to the promised land, God sent them on ahead with Moses. God promised to make the way for them into Canaan, but He would not go with them “lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Moses pleaded:

 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

And [God] said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:1-16).

Have you ever felt like Moses? “Don’t send me if You’re not going with me. I can’t go forward without You.”

Before Moses died, he assured the people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6).

When Moses died and Joshua was appointed to take Israel on to the promised land, God reassured him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

The psalmist rejoiced, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:1, 4, 11).

David declared, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. . . You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:8,11).

The prophets, who so often had to point out the people’s sins, also reminded them that God had nor forsaken them and was with them. “Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke by the commission of the LORD to the people saying, ‘I am with you,’ declares the LORD. . . all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 1:13; 2:4).

Through Isaiah, God promised His people: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2). Notice He didn’t say “if” you pass through water and through fire. He said “when.” Trouble’s going to come. But God is with us in it. Earlier Isaiah had quoted God, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. . . For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you'” (Isaiah 43:10,13).

When Jesus took on flesh, He was with His people in a physical way. Before He ascended back to heaven, He promised them, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Those verses we often lean on in anxiety in Philippians 4 are predicated by “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:5b-7).

We can trust God for our provision. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

At the end of life, if we know Him, we can rest in the fact that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,  they comfort me”( Psalm 23:4). Then we’ll be “absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” once again in full fellowship unhindered by a sin nature (2 Corinthians 5:8).

An old song said God is watching us from a distance. No, He is very close. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). Because Jesus was God’s Son, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again, we can be forgiven, redeemed, close to Him. In overcoming and need, in anxiety and danger, in everyday life and our walk with God, and finally in death, we can rest and rejoice in the fact that God is with us.

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah 57:15).

Immanuel

Written by C. H. Spurgeon at the age of 18

When once I mourned a load of sin;
When conscience felt a wound within;
When all my works were thrown away;
When on my knees I knelt to pray,
Then, blissful hour, remembered well,
I learned Thy love, Immanuel.

When storms of sorrow toss my soul;
When waves of care around me roll;
When comforts sink, when joys shall flee;
When hopeless griefs shall gape for me,
One word the tempest’s rage shall quell–
That word, Thy name, Immanuel.

When for the truth I suffer shame;
When foes pour scandal on my name;
When cruel taunts and jeers abound;
When “Bulls of Bashan” gird me round,
Secure within Thy tower I’ll dwell–
That tower, Thy grace, Immanuel.

When hell enraged lifts up her roar;
When Satan stops my path before;
When fiends rejoice and wait my end;
When legioned hosts their arrows send,
Fear not, my soul, but hurl at hell
Thy battle-cry, Immanuel.

When down the hill of life I go;
When o’er my feet death’s waters flow;
When in the deep’ning flood I sink;
When friends stand weeping on the brink,
I’ll mingle with my last farewell
Thy lovely name, Immanuel.

When tears are banished from mine eye;
When fairer worlds than these are nigh;
When heaven shall fill my ravished sight;
When I shall bathe in sweet delight,
One joy all joys shall far excel,
To see Thy face, Immanuel.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul, Purposeful Faith, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode,
Worth Beyond Rubies, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee,
Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth)

Musings Of A Tired Mummy

 

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest round-up of noteworthy reads:

Lies That Keep Women from the Word: Busyness Is Not the Problem, HT to True Woman. “Imagine if you thought that in order for a green bean to nourish you, you had to eat it in a calm place with nice lighting and no kids. What if a shower cleaned you only when you had a journal on hand to write about it? Or what if toothpaste worked only in Instagrammable moments?” Silly, yet we do the same thing with Bible reading. Good stuff here.

A Different Kind of Christmas List. Doing all the things leaves us exhausted. Choose the ones that mean the most to you and your family.

The Christmas Rush. From the first Christmas to now, people rush by the most important aspect of Christmas.

Someone Needs to See You Suffer Well. “Don’t assume your suffering is a detour. Suffering may hinder or even halt a hundred things in our lives, but God loves to use our griefs to magnify our small visions of him. And suffering makes the gospel run with a pace unknown in prosperity.”

Some Kids Barely Survive Christmas: Celebrating the Son with Special Needs. “Special needs can isolate families. When a child’s sensitivities preclude even a routine trip to the grocery store, the usual avenues of fellowship — birthday parties, baby showers, church-wide dinners — become unfeasible. But love and fellowship from other believers, offered without judgment, can provide parents a cool cup of water as they labor through arid terrain.”

The Humility of the Given Self. Wise words on sacrifice and humility in motherhood, but applicable to all of us who are task-oriented.

Why Did God Give My Kids a Sick Mom? HT to True Woman. “For mothers struggling with chronic pain, fatigue, physical or mental illness, our inabilities can be soul-crushing. . . . We want our kids to see us smile, even though it’s hard. . . . Whether or not you’ve struggled with significant illness, we all have seasons when we worry we don’t have enough to give to our children. And we can all be encouraged that God has good purposes for us and our children in every season.”

From Girl Power Strong to the Right Kind of Strong. HT to True Woman. “The Bible’s concept of weak and strong doesn’t line up with culture’s. This is especially the case when it comes to ideas about womanhood.”

And for a Christmas smile:

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: The Christmas Heirloom

Christmas Heirloom The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, and Becky Wade follows a family brooch handed down through generations.

“A Legacy of Love” by Kristi Ann Hunter takes place in 1827 England. Sarah Gooding came about her job as a lady’s companion in an unusual way, and she and her employer have a close relationship. Sarah is attracted to her employer’s grandson, but their different stations in life would prohibit anything more than friendship between them. Yet they do come to each other’s attention in protecting Lady Densbury’s interests, and she’s unconventional enough to help their relationship along. She bequeaths Sarah a brooch that had been given to her by her husband when they first married.

“Gift of the Heart” by Karen Witemeyer takes place several generations later in 1890. Ruth Fulbright is a young widow starting a new chapter in life with her daughter. They travel several miles via stage coach to a new job as a cook in Hope Springs, TX. She carries her heirloom brooch in an bag embroidered with her initials plus those of its three owners before her. Not having quite enough money for accommodations, she proposes giving the brooch as collateral to her landlord until she can earn enough to buy it back. Normally he would not accept such an arrangement, but she does not take no as an answer, and he sees how much it means to her. He has been almost a recluse since an injury and disfigurement of his arm in his youth changed his mother’s perception of him. He thinks everyone must feel about his handicap the same as she did. But Ruth’s bright spirit draws him out.

In “A Shot at Love” by Sarah Loudin Thomas, Fleeta’s parents have passed away, and she lives with an aunt and uncle in Bethel, West Virginia in 1958. Her main interest in life is guns: known as a crack shot, she also loves building them and carving designs into them. Her hope is to have her own gun store. Fleeta’s aunt brings out the brooch and tells Fleeta about it, saying her mother had wanted her to have it “when the time was right for [her] to find true love.” Fleeta doesn’t have much interest in love. Grief for her father hastened her mother’s demise, and other women seem to be held back by the romantic relationships in their lives. But then a stranger comes to town, a friend of a friend, who is just as good a shot and has just as much an interest in guns as she does. And he’s not put off by her unconventional femininity.

“Because of You” by Becky Wade tales place in modern-day Merryweather, Washington. Maddie Winslow had a crush on Leo Donnelly, but Leo married her friend, Olivia. But Olivia has passed away, leaving behind a young son as well as a grieving husband. Maddie still loves Leo but feels loyalty to Olivia places him “off limits.” Maddie and Leo are paired together for their church’s “Mission Christmas,” in which the different participants work together to help a family without means during the holidays. Maddie comes across the brooch while looking in the attic for items for a fund-raising rummage sale. She asks her mother about it and learns the story. Thankfully someone’s family history research reveals the brooch’s past. Leo had had no thoughts of loving again, but as he gets to know Maddie, he begins to think his heart can love again. The only thing I didn’t like about this one was multiple mentions of going to bars and drinking alcohol. I know Christians have a variety of opinions these days as to what exactly is acceptable in the realm of drinking, but I’d rather it was not “pushed” as normal. Having had an alcoholic father and visited a few bars before my salvation, to me, alcohol is part of the old life. There are any number of other places the folks in the story could have met.

There’s some mention of the brooch bringing its owners love, but the authors dispel the notion of it as something of a good luck charm, saying rather than love comes from God’s leading and provision.

This was a sweet, clean, enjoyable holiday read.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

I wanted to share these before we get too far away from Christmas since many of these posts relate to it.

Desperation, a Speech, and a Sick Child: Dickens and “A Christmas Carol.” What spurred the writing of Dickens’ most famous Christmas work.

What We Lose if We Ditch the Virgin Birth, HT to Challies.

One part of the Biblical Christmas story that often gets passed over is the murder of male babies in an effort to exterminate Christ. Two articles discerning truth from that horrendous occurrence are The Forgotten Part of the Christmas Story, HT to Challies, and From the Manger to the Cross: Mourning the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

Why Modern Christians Should Obey the Ten Commandments, HT to Challies.

ProLife Speaker Ryan Bomberger Publicly Discredited for Making Wheaton College Students and Professors Feel “Unsafe,” HT to Challies: “There is a right to free speech, but not a right to hear only what you want to hear.” “Our society and our colleges are under no obligation to protect frail and vulnerable college students from the discomforts of hearing what they don’t agree with. In my opinion, thin-skinned intellectualism has no place on college campuses. We need to encourage students to learn how to articulate their own ideas, not to try to shut down others from articulating theirs.”

Teach Your Teen How to Read the Bible.

There are usually lots of posts about Bible reading plans at the end of December and beginning of January. Lisa has created a 2-year Bible Reading Plan that I think is really good. I found the “Bible in a year” plans a little too rushed and pressured, so 2 years gives you a little more breathing room. It’s good to have both overview reading, to keep the big picture in mind and to read all of God’s inspired Word, and to do some more intense study on smaller bits as well. Lisa’s plan leaves room for both.

Giving Up Our Rights, HT to Challies. “Consider the formula: Giving up rights = Gospel advancement. Rights are those preferences and freedoms we enjoy as Christians related to what we eat, drink, and enjoy and even some things that we are owed or deserve.”

And, finally, this rang true for me, especially not knowing the day!

Found at Pinterest, apparently from the Letterfolk Instagram account.

Happy last Saturday of 2018!

Wishing you a Happy Christmas!

IMG_1262.png

I hope you have a wonderful time reflecting on God’s great gift to us and the love of people He puts in our lives.

I’ll leave you with my favorite Christmas song:

Infant holy, Infant lowly, for His bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing, little knowing, Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging angels singing, noels ringing, tidings bringing:
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.

Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping vigil till the morning new
Saw the glory, heard the story, tidings of a Gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, praises voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the Babe was born for you.
Christ the Babe was born for you.

Tra­di­tion­al carol, trans­lat­ed from Po­lish to Eng­lish by Edith M. Reed, 1921.

Book Review: The Christmas Hirelings

Christmas Hirelings I had never heard of The Christmas Hirelings, written in 1894 by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, but an audiobook of it was Audible‘s free Christmas gift to members, so I tried it out. I loved it! Braddon is known for more “sensational” writings: from what I understand, this is the only story of its kind that she wrote. But it hits all the right notes for a classic Victorian Christmas tale.

The story opens with Sir John Penlyon, his niece Adela, and his good friend Danby. As Sir John grouses about how boring Christmas is, Danby says “Nobody knows how to enjoy Christmas if he has no children to make happy. If one has no children of one’s own, one ought to hire some for the Christmas – week.” He then proposes to do just that, with Sir John’s permission. There’s much discussion about what kind of children should be brought, and Sir John finally tells Danby he can do anything he likes as long as he doesn’t bother Sir John about it.

Then the author switches to Sir John’s backstory and how he came to be a gruff old man alone in his mansion, and his story unexpectedly touched my heart. He was no Scrooge: he was generous and kind, unless crossed. But life’s circumstances had sapped all the joy from his life. At one point he said, “My life was barren, but peaceful. What more did I want?” Much later in the book, Danby said one reason he proposed this experiment was to prove to Sir John that he did indeed have a heart.

The children and Sir John get off on the wrong foot at first until the youngest, four-year-old Moppet, bravely attaches herself to him. One of my favorites of their exchanges:

Moppet: “Little girls sit on their fathers’ knees, don’t they ?”

Sir John: “Sometimes.”

“I mean good little girls. And that isn’t being forward, is it ?”

“No, Moppet, no. Fathers are made to be sat upon.”

The joy of having children around and doing for them enlivens the whole house and all its occupants, until tragedy strikes.

I had an idea where the story was going and who the children actually were by chapter three, but I still enjoyed seeing if I was right (I was) and how everything would play out (not like I expected!)

Oddly, there’s not a Kindle version, but the text is online here. The audiobook was superbly read by Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies). I nearly forgot at one point that one man was voicing all the characters. Here’s a bit of background for Audible’s recording with Armitage:

Another free audiobook is available from Librivox. Although the narration can’t compare to Armitage’s, it does have the advantage of a preface from Braddon telling how the book came to be and who Danby and Moppet are based on. The Librivox narration is also on YouTube here.

Thanks so much to Audible for introducing me to this lovely story.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved)

Christmas Grief, Christmas Hope, Christmas Joy

grave-at-christmas

December’s festivities are tempered with sorrow for some. My mother passed away December 10, my father December 12, and my grandmother Christmas Eve, each in different years. In more recent years a college friend and our only family dog died on December 21. My brother once commented that he just wanted to cancel the whole month.

The death of a loved any any time of year can shadow the whole Christmas season as we miss our normal interactions with that loved one. Grief begins as a flood but slowly transforms into a stream that occasionally overflows its banks. Even several years after a loss, it’s not abnormal to be caught off guard by a memory or a longing leading to a good crying jag.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that there is no one right way to celebrate Christmas. That’s true not only among different families or individuals, but even within the same hearts in different years.

When someone is grieving over the holidays, they may not want to participate in some of the “normal” happy pastimes. It’s not that they don’t ever laugh or enjoy gatherings. But as Sherry said, “I am enjoying the traditional holiday celebrations, and at the same time they move me to tears, sad tears for things that have been lost this year. I am singing the music, and yet I’m tired of the froth of jingling bells and pa-rumpumpum.” I remember almost wishing that we still observed periods of mourning with wearing black or some sign of “Grief in progress” — not to rain on anyone else’s good time, but just to let people know there was woundedness under the surface. Just as physical wounds need tenderness while healing, so do emotional ones.

Other events can cast a pall over Christmas: illness, job loss, a family estrangement, etc. One Christmas we were all sick as dogs, and my father-in-law had just had a major health crisis and wanted us to come up from SC to ID to visit. There was just no way we could drag ourselves onto a plane until antibiotics had kicked in. But a few days later we did go, and if I remember correctly, that was the last time any of us except my husband saw him alive. In retrospect we were glad we went, though it wasn’t the merriest of Christmases. A good friend grieved over “ruining” her family’s Christmas by being in the hospital with a severe kidney infection. Lizzie wrote about visiting her husband in prison for Christmas. Quilly commented about being homeless one Christmas.

If you’re grieving this Christmas, don’t feel guilty if you’re not quite into the “froth” this year.  Give yourself time to heal. It’s ok to pull back and have a quieter Christmas. There may be times to go through with some holiday festivities for family’s sake — and, truly, those times can help keep you from the doldrums.

Perhaps a new tradition commemorating your loved one might help. My step-father and sisters who live near my mother’s grave go out together as a family to put up a little Christmas tree there. I’m too far away to join them, but every year on the anniversary of my mom’s death, I have a private little moment of remembrance. A family we used to know whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver requested that their church host a special service in December for those who have lost loved ones in that way. Some men from our former church participated in a biking event together in memory of our pastor who died of liver cancer.

On the other hand, don’t feel guilty for enjoying Christmas. Experiencing joy shows no disrespect to your loved one or your circumstances. Your loved one would want to be remembered but would also want you to be happy. Sherry shared how making a list of reasons to celebrate Christmas helped. Look for the good things to rejoice in. My two friends mentioned above, Lizzie and Quilly, mentioned reasons for rejoicing in the midst visiting prison and homelessness. E-mom left a valuable comment that we can treasure up the memories of good Christmases to tide us over the not so good ones, and then look forward to better things ahead.

As I mentioned before, the first Christmas was not all about the froth, either. It was messy, lonely, and painful, yet out of it was born the Savior of the world and the hope of mankind.

If it weren’t for the hope that Christmas represents, I wouldn’t be able to endure the losses. The Christmas carol “O Holy Night” shares “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” comforts, “Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!…Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save.”

The baby in the manger didn’t stay a baby.  He was no ordinary child: the only begotten Son of the Father came to earth for a special mission. “Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give us second birth.” He taught, He healed, He lived as an example, but His main purpose in coming was to take sin away by bearing it Himself on the cross some 33 years after His birth, so that all who believe in Him could have their sins forgiven and live with Him in heaven some day. I have the hope of eternal life and the hope of seeing my loved ones again. Biblical hope isn’t tremulous: it’s a confident expectation.

But eternal life doesn’t begin at death: it begins the moment God’s gift of faith is received. We have hope not only for life after death, but for joy and peace in the midst of sorrow, for help, grace, strength, love in this life as well. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”

Rejoice in that hope and promise. Draw near to Him who has borne our griefs and carries our sorrows until grief and sorrow are done away forever.

(This post is a blending of a previous post from the archives and a newspaper article published in 2011.)

(Sharing with Inspire me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)