This morning, I saw a very sad news story.
A thirteen year old girl had undergone a routine tonsillectomy. During the procedure, she went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead. This happened on December 12th, just thirteen days before Christmas.
The state has declared her legally dead and ordered all life support be removed this Monday against the family’s wishes.
What kind of Christmas do you think her family had?
In my own life, I received a text from a dear friend that her daughter was being rushed to the hospital because her G-tube had come out on the day before Christmas. A cousin is facing the heartbreaking decision of which nursing home to send her father to because she can no longer care for him at home. Another friend is dealing with her first Christmas without her husband of twenty one years. A family member still mourns the violent death of her son two years ago and cannot stop the torrent of tears. Two high school classmates weep over the deaths of their sons just months apart and cling to friends, family, and grandkids to make it through the season.
So much heartache at Christmastime.
The media does a fabulous job of painting the holidays in bright, happy, shiny colors. Lots of smiling faces, cheery Christmas carols and warm, magical moments. And let’s not forget the beautifully wrapped packages under the tree.
All those things are wonderful and for some, they are true. I was extremely blessed this Christmas to spend time with family and enjoy the fact that everyone was healthy.
However, beneath the glitz and hype of this season, there is an emptiness and an ache that all the fabulous presents in the world cannot fill.
When your life caves in, like it did for the parents of that thirteen year old child, what does all the earthly trappings of the holiday season have to offer you?
Nothing at all.
In fact, it can be like a knife to the chest, an unintentional mockery of the vastness of your pain as the world around you celebrates while your heart has broken into a thousand little pieces.
What is a person to do when the shallow ways of the world fail in every way to satisfy? To comfort? To heal?
The answer lies in that baby in the manger that is at the center of Christmas.
This December, I decided to get off of the crazy merry-go-round of constant holiday activity and really reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Doing that changed everything.
For too many Christmases, I allowed the frenetic pace of the season to drive me and by the time Christmas day arrived, I was exhausted and depleted. The day was over in a flash and it all felt strangely empty.
It is possible to miss Jesus in the midst of Christmas.
I didn’t miss Him this year, though. I took the time to read, to pray, to reflect, to wonder at the sheer miracle of God Himself leaving Heaven and coming to earth on a rescue mission for you and me.
And it made all the difference.
Jesus Himself is the Gift. The one, endless Gift that we can never lose, that never changes.
He never stops giving Himself to us.
But we can refuse to take Him.
We can ignore the astonishing fact that Jesus willingly chose to leave the splendor of Heaven and fold Himself quietly into the womb of a teenage girl and be born in a filthy stable…all for the love of you and me.
And in that moment, all the prophecies about the coming Messiah were fulfilled to the letter. Our eternal rescue had been put into inexorable motion. In thirty-three short years, , death would be forever vanquished for those who would believe as our Creator allowed Himself to be nailed to a brutal wooden cross to take the punishment that should have been ours.
Hope would live. Joy would conquer. Light would win over darkness.
Because of Christmas, one day, “everything sad will come untrue.” (Tolkien).
Jesus is the ONLY Gift to give people who are hurting this holiday season.
Every other gift will break, wear out, ultimately disappoint, and prove endlessly inadequate.
Only Jesus can heal, bring beauty from the ashes, ascribe deep, eternal meaning to a life, fill every void, fulfill every deep longing, give the perfect love for which we all yearn, weave a beautiful tapestry with your life in such a way that the dark threads are all part of the grand Story of redemption that He is forever telling.
Only Jesus can redeem your pain, fill you to the brim with peace, and give you victory as you walked through this broken world.
He awaits your coming to Him through prayer and the pages of His love letter to you, the Bible.
When you call out to Him in faith, He promises to hear. No matter what you have done, no matter how many times you have failed, no matter how big a mess you have made.
His arms are open wide. His ears are open and attentive to your every cry. He sees every tear.
If you can’t find the words, open your Bible to the book of Psalms where you will find words for your pain, since every emotion known to man is included in those 150 chapters.
Or open the book of John and begin to read in chapter one of the Savior who came for you.
Whatever you have to do, get to Jesus.
He is your only hope, your ultimate Gift.
…“the one who comes to Me, I will most certainly not cast out. I will never, no never reject one of them who comes to Me.” —Jesus (John 6:37).