Are You Grieving Tis Season?

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home from college, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

 

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated Christ in the midst of a grief that can’t be spoken…

The death of an elderly father. The loss of an infant grandson. A broken marriage. A pre-school child with cancer. Someone facing a double mastectomy. So many lives touched by a pain that goes on and on.

I try to make sense of it all especially during Christmas when hearts are meant to be merry and bright. A friend told me that tragedies like these remind us to hold our loved ones close, forgive and keep short accounts, and share Jesus. Another woman, whose husband was killed, said, “Instead of asking why this happened, I ask how I can live to honor God despite my circumstances.

Wise words, but I also opened my Bible to Matthew because I thought of those ancient moms who grieved for their sons—martyred babes, slain by the sword when Jesus was born.

For even though a bright star led the Magi to worship the Christ Child, the troubled soul of King Herod resulted in the blood-thirsty slaughter of children.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

When I look at the current mayhem and sorrow in the world, has anything changed since that blessed year when Christ was born?

After all, one of the Magi’s gifts was Myrrh, a bitter perfume, that breathed “gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

lamentation-of-christ-by-antony-van-dyck-1599-1641However, outward appearances can be deceiving.

Jesus wasn’t born to spare folks from pain and death on earth. He came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. To prove God’s great love by dying for us while we were still sinners. And His resurrection guarantees us new life when He’ll wipe away every tear and there will be no more death.

“Rachel wept…refused to be comforted.” Maybe you’re mourning too.

Just remember, when we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His name, it truly is possible to experience His peace and comfort that defies human logic… 

Even in this grief that can’t be spoken.

 

References: Matthew 2:16-18, John 1:29, Romans 5:8, John 20:31, Rev. 21:4 & lyrics from We Three Kings of Orient Are

Photo of woman: Pixabay

Did you know?

Mary, did you know…

Wise men were coming to see your baby, Jesus?

Did an angel warn you; give you time to prepare for company? Or did they show up unannounced?

Nativity scenes depict you serene, radiating joy as you cradle your infant son.

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But was God’s peace enough?

Enough to keep you tranquil when your home was bursting at the seams with visiting dignitaries? Camels resting outside your door?

Although you found favor in God’s eyes, and were chosen among all women to bear the Son of God, you were still a woman.

A young mom with raging hormones. A newly wed, living in humble means.

So I’m curious. Was your expression as europhoric as it appears in Renaissance paintings and Christmas cards?

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Because if I’d given birth, and prestigious strangers showed up at my door (uninvited) I’d probably come unglued.

Oh, I’d smile and invite them inside, but my eyes would only see the clutter on my kitchen counter. The dust on the mantel piece.

I’d scramble to brew a pot of coffee or tea. Bring out my nicest cups—the ones not chipped or stained. I’d forage in my pantry for snacks to share.

Not knowing how long they’d stay, I’d take my husband aside and tell him to order Chinese food or pizza.

If these strangers brought valuable gifts, I’d balk at the price tag before I graciously received them—knowing I had nothing to give in return.

What if they worshipped my son? Would I miss out while I searched for my camera to capture the moment?
Or be still and ponder these things in my heart like you did?

Mary, how did you feel when the shepherds and wise men had come and gone?
Did the thrill of childbirth go away when you and Joseph were left alone; faced with the reality of raising God’s Son?

How did you react when an angel told your husband to flee to Egypt for safety? Did you question God? Wrestle with the decision to move?

Surely your heart sank when you heard every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem had been killed when King Herod’s men searched for the Christ Child.

Did your faith flounder…even for a second?

Or were you so intent on God’s eternal purposes that His supernatural peace kept your mortal soul calm—come what may?

Mary, I like to think you didn’t know what lay ahead.

That you were a woman like me.

Imperfect, but walking by faith and not by sight even though you didn’t comprehend events.

Trusting God’s sovereignty during tumultuous times.

Consumed with Whom?

Today, I swam upstream in a sea of shoppers. Browsing for the perfect Christmas gift.

Never mind that Christ came as the Lamb of God to Save people from their sins on that first Christmas,

Businesses are glad to Save me a buck this time of year (and spend one too) so long as I…..

  • Shop on a particular date
  • Use a coupon
  • Buy two items to get one free.
  • Mail in a rebate

After two hours, and minimum results, I called it a day. I don’t have the shopper gene, and gifts aren’t my love language.

My trash can is full of unread, glossy catalogs and holiday coupons. I delete email advertisements that urge me to “Hurry up and Buy.”

Even charities finagle how to guilt me into year-end giving—tax deductible of course.

I DO LOVE CHRISTMAS, but it makes me crazy that Consumerism has taken center stage over Christ.

We’re solicited to purchase Christmas gifts, but  learning how to receive the GIFT of GOD is taboo.

I get it. Not everyone who celebrates “Christmas” believes in the name of Jesus. Did you know there’s a giant Christmas tree in a Dubai shopping mall? Isn’t that city located in a Muslim country?

Sorry, rabbit trail….Let me point my finger back to myself.

I can sit on my Christian high horse and spout, Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, unless I’m intentional about my relationship with Him, I’m prone to wander through the merry month of December, consuming goods and calories.

Consumed with everything and everyone, but Him.

Ten years ago, I was confronted with my wanderlust. After the Christmas season, I packed the ceramic nativity set on my fireplace mantel before I noticed…

Baby Jesus is missing!

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No manger full of straw, no bright-eyed babe for Mary and Joseph to adore.

Wise men and shepherds kneeled, and yet the newborn King wasn’t around for them to worship.

Baby Jesus was on my desk, buried beneath clearance ads.

I cradled the tiny figurine. How did I go through Christmas unaware the Christ Child was missing?

Then again, my spiritual disciplines and time with the Lord weren’t on my checklists—buy gifts, mail cards, bake cookies, watch Christmas movies.

My all-consuming, weary efforts to celebrate Jesus’ birth that year were a vain attempt to possess what I already had experienced, and thoughtlessly forsaken, the joy of abiding in Christ.

Abiding, even in this…busiest, most wonderful time of the year.

Is Jesus missing in your life?

 

Consumed with Whom?

Today, I swam upstream in a sea of shoppers. Browsing for the perfect Christmas gift.

Never mind that Christ came as the Lamb of God to Save people from their sins on that first Christmas,

Businesses are glad to Save me a buck this time of year (and spend one too) so long as I…..

  • Shop on a particular date
  • Use a coupon
  • Buy two items to get one free.
  • Mail in a rebate

After two hours, and minimum results, I called it a day. I don’t have the shopper gene, and gifts aren’t my love language.

My trash can is full of unread, glossy catalogs and holiday coupons. I delete email advertisements that urge me to “Hurry up and Buy.”

Even charities finagle how to guilt me into year-end giving—tax deductible of course.

I DO LOVE CHRISTMAS, but it makes me crazy that Consumerism has taken center stage over Christ.

We’re solicited to purchase Christmas gifts, but  learning how to receive the GIFT of GOD is taboo.

I get it. Not everyone who celebrates “Christmas” believes in the name of Jesus. Did you know there’s a giant Christmas tree in a Dubai shopping mall? Isn’t that city located in a Muslim country?

Sorry, rabbit trail….Let me point my finger back to myself.

I can sit on my Christian high horse and spout, Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, unless I’m intentional about my relationship with Him, I’m prone to wander through the merry month of December, consuming goods and calories.

Consumed with everything and everyone, but Him.

Ten years ago, I was confronted with my wanderlust. After the Christmas season, I packed the ceramic nativity set on my fireplace mantel before I noticed…

Baby Jesus is missing!

20141213_200458

No manger full of straw, no bright-eyed babe for Mary and Joseph to adore.

Wise men and shepherds kneeled, and yet the newborn King wasn’t around for them to worship.

Baby Jesus was on my desk, buried beneath clearance ads.

I cradled the tiny figurine. How did I go through Christmas unaware the Christ Child was missing?

Then again, my spiritual disciplines and time with the Lord weren’t on my checklists—buy gifts, mail cards, bake cookies, watch Christmas movies.

My all-consuming, weary efforts to celebrate Jesus’ birth that year were a vain attempt to possess what I already had experienced, and thoughtlessly forsaken, the joy of abiding in Christ.

Abiding, even in this…busiest, most wonderful time of the year.

Is Jesus missing in your life?

 

No Thanks

Day after Christmas…

Colorful wrapping paper is crumpled in the trash can.

Gift cards are tucked in wallets, the new mug holds hot coffee, books wait to be read, and the air hums with “electronic toys.”

After weeks of buying, wrapping, mailing, and opening objects…meant to express love and bring someone joy…it is finished. At least the consumer in me.

Some folks rose early to find a bargain at the Day-After-Christmas sales, returned an unwanted gift.

I’m done with shopping.

Today, we write thank you notes.

That’s right…not a text, but the old-fashioned, handwritten note that comes via snail mail.

That’s how I was raised; passed it on to my children.

Say please, say thank you.

But there’s a harder lesson to learn than manners.

To give gifts or acts of service when there is no reciprocation; perhaps, not even a thank you.

To give without expectations.

Otherwise, my unmet expectations become kernels of resentment which “pop” into foul-tasting bitterness.

Perhaps, some might say, ungrateful people don’t deserve the gift.

I can judge people’s response, or the lack thereof, but

I can only be certain of my own heart’s intent. Am I giving out of love or obligation…expectation? 

I went to a Christmas party where there was a book exchange. Each guest could take an unwrapped book off the table or take one that someone else had opened.One woman clung to a book which looked appealing. I wanted the book, but instead I told her, “I’ll let you keep the book. Consider it grace.”

Then I laughed, “Don’t forget you owe me.”

The Holy Spirit poked my ribs, “Excuse me?”

“Grace” and “owe” are polar opposites.

Grace is mercy, a kindness; undeserved favor extended to others.

Owe means someone has to give or repay.

Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Christ; the WORD of God made flesh…a gift of love and grace to mankind.

God knew….NOT everyone would receive, or appreciate the Divine gift.

There’s no way to repay Him.

But the Lord gave His only begotten Son,

And STILL, HE loves and gives grace on a daily basis.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:13)

And by His grace, and example,

Learn to love and give to others even when there are no thanks.

The Moment Just Before

 “‘Well,” said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” ― A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

That moment is called…

Anticipation: the action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction.

Think of expectations leading to Christmas Day.

·         Boxes wrapped in colorful paper, filled with who knows what.

·         Fresh sheets on the guest bed, ready for out-of-town company.

·         Scent of homemade cookies in the oven, tempting taste buds.

·         Family traditions and memories waiting to happen.

·         Children, longing for that special toy, unable to sleep

Could it be that ….

“Anticipation is sometimes more exciting than actual events.” ― Ana Monnar

 Perhaps, unless those events surrounded Jesus’ birth.

Imagine people’s anticipation who grew up hearing the prophecies/predictions of a coming Messiah.

And then Immanuel, “God with us,” stepped into their lives, exceeding expectations.

·      Mary expected to deliver a baby boy, who was no ordinary child. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” 

·      Joseph expected the angel of the Lord’s prediction to come true, and named the baby “Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins.”

Shepherds heard the good news. “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord….So they hurried off (with anticipation) to find the baby lying in the manger (exactly like the angel predicted) and they were amazed.”

Magi from the east traveled with gifts to see the Christ Child. And when they found him, “they were overjoyed, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

 

Today …

·         Christ is exalted, seated at the right hand of God, the Father.

·         Good news is preached.

·         People are saved from their sins.

·         Believers worship Jesus, the risen Savior.

Only now, there’s another event that Christians anticipate.

Jesus said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3)

Confident God’s Word is true,

 “We eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21)

And yet, a moment just before we behold Jesus face-to-face, will not be better than being in His presence ….

Because Christ will exceed even our greatest expectations!

A Dose of Cabin Fever

“It’s snowing!” my teenage son exclaimed as he helped my husband carry the seven-foot Douglas Fir to our truck. Snowflakes and the scent of pine needles bolstered our “Christmas spirit.”

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Next morning, our rural property was a winter wonderland. I watched my husband drive away on business, leaving tire tracks down the steep driveway.  

Son and I huddled indoors and enjoyed a leisure weekend. But with frigid temperatures, and no road salt or sun rays to melt our icy driveway, my “Christmas spirit” morphed into “Cabin Fever.”

Monday afternoon, I stood at the window as though I was a prisoner in solitary confinement.

With the exception of my son, who is a young man of few words, I hadn’t spoken to a soul for three days. Even Facebook friends were quiet as a mouse.

I wasn’t bored. I’d been productive. But even as an introvert, I needed me some people.

God created us for relationship. He pursues us.

Even so, God looked at Adam and said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So He made a helpmate, a woman.

Family and Tribe are vital in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the emphasis shifts to the adoption of believers into the Body of Christ, but there remains the need for corporate worship.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another….”(Hebrews 10:24,25)

  

However, I don’t think the Lord intends for me to commune on Sabbath morning while “we’re assembled” and then go my separate way for six days.

I can be isolated and still read my Bible, pray, and worship the Lord.

But it’s difficult to give and receive love, comfort, encouragement, accountability, and prayer when I’m alone.    

A dose of Cabin Fever reminded me of two Facebook acquaintances in desperate need of the above.

One has been in the hospital since September, and the other is confined at home. God sustains, but without community, their spirits wither like grapes on a vine.

Weary, heartsick Caregivers beg for people to reach out with cards, phone calls, or visits to show their loved one is not alone.

Perhaps it takes being alone to understand, and moved to action.

Tuesday brought warmer temperatures, and the arrival of my stalwart husband, to rescue me. Free at last, I drove to the grocery store, thankful to rub elbows with the human race.

People are flawed creatures, but I’m convinced we need one another for better or worse, in sickness and health….

What better time than the Christmas season to find a lonely person and SHOW them the love of Christ?