Tag Archives: Christmas

Remembering the Missing Pieces at Christmastime

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See the missing piece? (Puzzle is an image of a painting by Robert Lyn Nelson.)

For Christmas six years ago, my aunt gave Robby and me a beautiful puzzle. We’ve worked on that thing for years, and we finally completed it this month! I thought I’d be happy to finish it and reclaim my dining table.

But once we were down to the final few pieces, we became nostalgic. We began to think about all our experiences over the past several years and about our loved ones who have passed on

Just as my mood was turning from merry to melancholy, we realized our 1,000-piece puzzle had only 999 pieces.

Suddenly, that one missing piece symbolized all those who are now missing in our lives, from our sweet kitty Sue to my late grandmother. It was like the hidden holes in our hearts were made visible, right there on the dinner table. I started to cry. Then Robby said Sue probably ate the missing piece, and we laughed. It seemed appropriate somehow.

The Interlopers

The emotions of loss and grief seem especially cruel at Christmastime as they settle over our merriment like a blanket of snow. What’s even worse is that we’re taught that it’s inappropriate to feel anything but happiness around the holidays. It’s as if negative emotions aren’t spiritual enough for Christmas.

But where does this idea come from? Why do we feel that sadness and loss are interlopers in the Christmas scene? Perhaps we need a refresher on the real meaning (and cost) of Christmas.

 

Cost of Christmas

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Christ, or the Anointed One, whose name is Jesus. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He brought salvation to mankind. That’s why the angel spoke of “great joy” when he announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. (See Luke 2:10-11.)

At Christmas, we recount the story of the birth of Jesus, His parents Mary and Joseph, the heralding angel, the shepherds, and the wise men who came from far away.

But this year I keep wondering, what about God the Father? What was He going through during the miraculous birth of Jesus?

I’m sure the Father was glad to bring salvation near to us. I’m sure that, like any good parent, He was proud of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, I can’t help but think that the Father was also sad.

We know that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Although He spoke to the Father constantly through prayer, this was the first time that He was physically separate from the Him—and not just for a day or a week but for 33 years! This idea is hard to understand mentally, yet our hearts empathize with the feeling of separation, and perhaps even loss, that the Father and Son must have felt toward one another.

One in Heaven. One on Earth.

Our gift of Christmas came at God’s expense.

 

Missing Pieces…Found

When we lose loved ones, we feel like our lives are incomplete. They’re in Heaven, and we’re here on Earth.

But the good news—the great news!—is that God is in the business of restoration. Just as the Son reclaimed His position at the right hand of the Father, so we, the children of God, will claim our rightful place with Him in Heaven. That’s where we’ll find our missing pieces.

 

Encouragement for Christmas

If you’re struggling this season, I encourage you to let go of worldly expectations. Christmas isn’t a time for us to be fake with our loved ones or with God. It’s a time to remember that God is real and holy, and that through His sacrifice, the missing pieces of our Christian family will be restored.

If you need more peace this season, start with a simple prayer like this one:

“Thank you, Father, for all that you have done for me. Help me to remember the miracle of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, and to appreciate what it cost you. Please give me peace and comfort, especially during this season when I miss my loved ones more than ever. I trust that all things happen according to your plan, and that you love me and want good things for me. Thank you, Father. In the name of Jesus, the reason for every season. Amen.”

May you come to know the heart of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—this Christmas season.

“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).


[Click to Tweet: Our gift of Christmas came at God’s expense. #bigsisterknows #crosslife #christmas2017]

 


I want to hear from you! How is the Lord helping you deal with loss during the Christmas season? Are you helping others who are going through a difficult time?

 

The Most Lavish Gift of All

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The following blog was published on Lift Up Your Day. I have included it in its entirety below. I hope it blesses and encourages you!


The Extravagant Gift

I was in a store recently when a homeless man came in and began chatting up the sales clerk. Apparently, John (as the clerk called him), had been in the store earlier and had picked out a reproduction of a painting.

“I told you I’d be back,” John told the clerk. “My sister Susan is going to love this! She’s done so much for me over the past few years, and I just want to give her something to show my appreciation. You said you can ship it to her, right?”

I watched as John produced $45 in wrinkled bills and an old envelope with Susan’s name and address on the return label. (I was reminded that homeless people don’t carry credit cards or use smart phones to manage their contacts.)

Although the painting was one of the most expensive items in the store, John didn’t haggle over the price. In fact, he seemed overjoyed to spend the money. Still, I wondered if he had any left to buy dinner. Where would he stay the night? Would his sister be pleased with the gift or upset over the cost?

As I tried to figure out how I felt about the situation, I watched John float out of the store on a bubble of joy and excitement. I realized he wasn’t just sending his sister something—he was sending her a grand gesture, an extravagant gift, and the joy he felt in giving it was its own reward.

 

The Idol of Frugality

I thought back to when I was 16 years old. It took me weeks to save up $110 to buy a birthstone ring for my mother. It was a lot of money to spend on a single present, which was exactly the point. I wanted to show Mom how much I loved her by giving her a lavish gift.

My mind shifted again, this time to our current Christmas preparations. My husband Robby and I live on a budget, so we agreed to keep the presents to a minimum, focusing on those around us with immediate needs. Still standing in the store, I mentally patted myself on the back for planning a frugal Christmas. That’s when the Lord convicted me: “You already know that money can be an idol. So can frugality.”

It felt like I had been kicked in the gut! I thought I was being smart, but in those two sentences, the Lord showed me that I was beginning to live in fear—fear that the money would dry up, that the needs would exceed the funds, that God would leave us high and dry. It wasn’t conscious—I know God will take care of us—but I’ve been holding a firm grasp on the purse strings, afraid of giving God full reign.

 

The Most Lavish Gift of All

As these thoughts were pouring through my mind, the Lord told me something very important about Himself: “I am not a frugal God. I give lavishly out of my abundance.”

How profound! Our God is the most lavish spender of all time—and He spent everything on us! God gave His Son Jesus to mankind on Christmas, and then Jesus gave His life for us on Easter. God didn’t hold back with us. He didn’t budget or skimp. God gave us 100% of His net worth in the person of Jesus Christ—and we didn’t even deserve it.

 

Let Us Freely Give

Now, I don’t propose that we max out the credit card bills in a misguided attempt to “bless” everyone around us. However, we should be more like John—focused not on what we lack but on our access to God’s abundance.

This Christmas, let’s allow God to guide all of our decisions—including how we spend our money—resting in the surety that He will not lead us astray. And let us freely dispense the priceless gifts of compassion, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love, this season and throughout the new year.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NAS)

Carrying Jesus

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Manger Scene (Photo by Ashley Jones)

Manger Scene (Photo by Ashley Jones)

 

Expecting God

 

As we wait expectantly for Christmas, my thoughts turn to Mary and Joseph. I wonder what it was like for them as they waited for their first child to be born, knowing that child was the Son of God. I imagine they would have had a lot of questions:

 

What would Jesus look like?

Would He look fully human, or would He look more like the angel Gabriel – tall with golden skin?

Would He look Jewish?

Would He take after Mary?

 

Would Jesus have special powers?

Would He perform miracles, like heal people and raise the dead?

Would He fly, become invisible, or walk on water?

Would He be super strong or able to run very fast?

Would He need to eat and drink?

Would He feel pain?

 

Would Jesus grow up normally?

Would He grow up like a normal boy, or would He mature quickly?

Would He understand everything going on around Him, even as a baby?

Would He speak as an infant, or learn to speak over time?

Would He learn from Mary and Joseph, or would He immediately begin to teach them?

 

How long would they have Jesus?

Gabriel said He was the Son of God and that He would reign over the house of Jacob forever. Did that mean He would live forever? Or would He disappear from this world and go to be with God?

 

I find it very humbling to think about what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph who found themselves responsible for the most important person in the world, the greatest gift to mankind. I believe the Holy Spirit must have guided Mary and Joseph’s steps every day, giving them comfort and peace about the unknown future. I also like to think that Jesus Himself helped to guide Mary as He grew within her. What strange comfort that must have been!

 

Like Mary

 There are many people throughout the world who venerate Mary, giving her special honor among the saints / Christians. Although I wasn’t raised in that tradition, I can understand it. Mary was so privileged to be the one woman to carry the Christ child! Gabriel himself greeted her as the “favored one.” (Luke 1:28, NAS)

However, it dawned on me today that there is something else going on here that is much bigger than one person. I was thinking about Mary – how she carried the baby Jesus inside her; how He developed over 9 months; and how she delivered Him in a barn because there was no room for them. All of this so that Jesus might live and die for our sins so we can all have a relationship with God.

And then I thought about the rest of us Christians – how the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us when we accept Jesus as our Savior; how His Spirit helps to mature us, giving us guidance and comfort; and how we eventually bear the fruit of the Spirit into a world that does not know Him. And all of this so that we might have a relationship with God and introduce others to Him so they can find salvation in Him, too.

Mary’s miraculous conception of Jesus is an example, a type, a foreshadowing of what we Christians experience today. Just as she carried Jesus, we carry the Holy Spirit. Because of this, we should honor and love each other, as we are all temples of God. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

The miracle of Jesus’ birth over 2,000 years ago is only magnified by our ability to know and serve Him today. As you prepare your homes and hearts for Christmas this week, remember that the story has never ended – it continues even now as folks like you and I carry the message of Jesus throughout the world through His precious Holy Spirit.

Merry Christmas!