Christmas is a time of joy for us. When we are little children, the excitement of finding presents under the tree can be almost unbearable. As we grow up, we treasure moments with family and loved ones, some which we may have only recently met or became reacquainted with.
As we grow up and our families develop, we create many memories. Some memories are very good. Some are not so good, and we might wish to not remember them anymore.
Every family has had a Christmas or two where it just wasn't Christmas. We had two of those in a row. In 1984, we found out that my father had terminal cancer the day before Thanksgiving. By the time Christmas rolled around, Dad was very ill, and suffering greatly. Of course, all our attention was on that and it was very sad. None of us were thinking, 'I can't wait to open the presents!' or ' What a delicious meal we had that night'. In spite of the sadness, there was one bright spot that was though. My little one and a half year old daughter got a little riding toy, and my Dad was just thrilled watching her playing with that riding toy! That made his last Christmas a little brighter.
I tend to reminisce the Christmases we had when I was little. We went to my grandparent's house and opened presents. Of course, I had to eat my farina dumplings before there was any present opening in the house. I was the only one left in the kitchen while everyone else was making preparations. Then we would go home and hopefully go to sleep and wake up early the next morning.
The Christmas I really remember was the one where I looked out the window onto the front porch (the front porch was just another room in our little tiny house). It looked like there were toys from one end of the room to the other end of the room!).
We never went to our other grandparent's house for Christmas, but they always came over Christmas day. But one night, on our way home from the other grandparent's home, we stopped in front of Grandma and Grandpa's house. Only my dad went in. We stayed in the car. Then my dad got back into the car and we went home.
I think about those Christmases and the family I had then. Both sets of grandparents were alive, and even some great grandparents visited us. But, as what usually happens in families happened to ours as well. We moved away from the family. I grew up and got married. I had babies to contend with. Grandparents died. Dad died. Christmas is still here, but it is all different now.
There is no Nanny and Poppop, Oma, Grandma and Grandpa, or even my Dad. My Father in law passed away, and recently my Mother in law passed away. Now we are the grandparents, and my mom is the great grandparent.
Christmas took on a new meaning once I got married. Christmas was one of those things I would never let go of. I just didn't realize how everything else that I related with Christmas would change. Now the Christmas season was mine to make whatever I wanted to make of it. I could just forget it, and pretend it doesn't exist, or, I could keep it going with a fervor.
When I came to Christ around age 17, Christmas now began to take on the true meaning. There was something more to this holiday and it was very special. It wasn't just a day to goof off and take an excuse to be lazy. Now there was a valid reason for celebrating, and I knew what that reason was.
But Christmas continued to become more special. I began to relate it with being pregnant. Children are God's gift to us, and it seemed like every time I got pregnant, it was around Christmas time. It was kind of like God's Christmas present to me. Even some of the Christmas songs remind me of the days when I was carrying one of my children. I still hear them on the radio every day now, since the Christian station is playing Christmas music throughout the day. It is like a bittersweet experience. The impossibility of going back to the days when I was pregnant, and now realizing that my last child is in college, not inside my womb anymore.
Christmas has been so joyful because of the opportunities to share the Gospel during this time of year. It truly is my favorite time of year. But I have to admit that this is bittersweet as well, for, my last child, which was a long desired boy, is an adult now, and I am constantly reminded that he won't be in our home forever.
As I listen to Christmas songs that come on, I am reminded of this continually. The memories are somewhat fresh of bringing my son to Christmas parties at his special school. This school was tailor made for us because the man who ran the school is an evangelist. I could have gone to the school and had fellowship with the teachers because we all had that one thing in common. But it wasn't only the school. My son took initiative with evangelism events that were going on, and we had some that we did at Christmas time together. We used to go to the parades and give out tracts with others who had the same vision. We used to go caroling as an evangelistic outreach. I would take him to his little Christmas concerts that the school band (a Christian band) would do. Every year, for many years, I brought him to different places where his band performed at Christmas time. All of that is over now. No more band concerts. No more bringing him to a school where the teachers were evangelists or theologians. Now that he is in college, he doesn't have the time for extra activities, although we participated together in the parade this year. It is sad to think that he could move away in a couple of years and he would not be part of our evangelistic events anymore, unless he comes home.
We still have a daughter who lives around here and she participates in the Christmas events we have going on. Now she has four children and we need to make Christmas special and meaningful for them. We are building traditions together and trusting that our little grandchildren will one day incorporate them into their lives, or at least remember the Christmases that we have now with them.
So, Christmas is becoming more and more meaningful, as we go deeper in the Gospel. Christmas provides a great opportunity to do evangelism. That seems to me to be the main reason for Christmas anymore. I guess that's the way it should be though.
There's no more grandparents to celebrate Christmas with. No more Dad. No more Mom and Dad in law. Everyone, except for my mom, has either died or moved away. Maybe I've made Christmas more than what it was intended to be? It is sure a lot different than what it used to be, but, in some ways it isn't.
Most of the people are gone who used to be there. But there are a lot of new people to celebrate with. As we grow in the Lord, Christmas becomes more precious. But did you know that Christmas is really a sad holiday? It's not sad for us, necessarily, but for God, it cost Him dearly.
When God sent His Son to earth, to live as a human being, there was a specific reason He came to live on our planet. It was not to set an example of how we should follow, although He did do that. He came for a very important reason that was necessary for us. He came to die.
I have to wonder what Mary thought when she heard the words of Simeon who told her that a sword would pierce her own heart. Did Mary have any idea of what was to come?
Yes, Jesus came to be the sacrifice for our sins. All the evil we commit every day, was dealt with when God sent His Son to earth, to be born as a baby, and live a holy life and then to die a horrible death in order to pay for our sins. This didn't take God by surprise though. It was planned at the beginning of time, and was foretold by many prophets in the Old Testament.
So, when you think of Christmas, take the whole story into account. Jesus came and was born of a virgin, the only Son of the true and living God. He lived a perfect life and never sinned, yet was treated as a criminal and died the death of a criminal, as if He did some horrible crime. It was possible for Him to escape this, but, if He did, we would have no way to be reconciled back to God. Jesus provided for that when He died on the Cross. Now we can be forgiven of our sins, and we can also live free from sin. All because Jesus died for us. He also rose from the dead on the third day after He was crucified. It was a very sad time in History, but it was also the most important event that ever took place.
So Christmas is sad for many reasons. But we can rejoice in what God has done for us. We can also be grateful to God for giving us His Son. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life."
Families grow up and people pass away. Babies are born and families continue. Life is happy. Life is sad. We need to be grateful when we are happy, and we need to be grateful when we are sad, as well. Celebrating Christmas can be bittersweet simply because we lose precious things in life, and they also are retained in our memories, but they only last as memories. We can never go back. But one thing is for sure: God will never leave us, if we know Him. Heaven will be like an eternal Christmas, focusing on the true meaning at every moment. God will never be just a nice memory. He promises to be with us forever. And we can enjoy Him right now.
Wishing all of you a joyous Christmas with the presence of God with you always.
*For more information on how to become reconciled back to God, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com
Later update: After I posted this blog I realized that I missed something very important. As I go through the Christmas season with tears in my eyes, I realize that much of my crying is really not so much sadness, as much as it is thankfulness. There are so many things I am thankful for, and I am in awe of how merciful God has been to me. There are things that have happened in my life that I can't believe God has allowed them to happen. I would have to take another blog to write all about them, but I will just mention two of them here.
1. I am in awe of God and still can't believe that I have a son. Not only did a get a son, but I got one who has a heart after God. I just stand amazed at being able to have a child that I could pour my life into and actually see the results. In the natural, it was unlikely that we would ever have a baby boy. My father in law was the youngest of 7 children and the only boy in the family. My husband was the third in his family, and the only boy as well. We followed suit for awhile and had three beautiful daughters. The we got our son.
2. We recently were able to do a parade that somehow, with God's wisdom and help, everything came together. I got to do evangelism and be in a parade at the same time. Or should I say, I got to be in a parade for the sole purpose of being able to use the event as a means of evangelism. How cool is that?