Sunday, December 23, 2012

While Our Hearts Are Broken This Christmas, Our Hope Is Not

Written on December 22, 2012 by Bob Russell

I can’t remember ever entering a Christmas season with such a heavy heart. I can’t get the shooting massacre of twenty grade-school children in Connecticut off my mind. The grief those parents and family members are experiencing right now is unimaginable to most of us. The Associated Press reported that Newtown, Connecticut officials have turned off the town’s Christmas lights in memory of those who lost their lives. They reasoned they can’t have a Merry Christmas in the midst of such tragedy and heartache.

This past week I learned that the forty-four year old wife of a beloved associate was diagnosed with lung cancer and she faces a difficult challenge ahead. She is one of the most talented and finest Christian women I know. Her husband and four children are devastated. So am I.

On top of that, I have two sisters struggling with serious health problems. This past Tuesday I visited a church member who is under hospice care at home. And a couple I married three years ago buried a stillborn child on Thursday. It has been a tough month.

Maybe it’s the same for you. While it won’t exactly be a “holly, jolly Christmas this year,” it still can be a very meaningful one. Maybe it will be a deeper celebration than normal, if we think about what Christmas really means. It’s not so much about gifts, parties and laughter. The hope of Christmas is that Jesus came to deliver us from the evil and death that is so much a part of this world. The angel informed Joseph, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

When Ann’s husband was drafted into the military and sent overseas in World War II, she packed her luggage and drove her two young children to her parent’s home in Texas. Since she anticipated her husband would be gone for the better part of a year, this would be an opportunity for her children to get better acquainted with their grandparents.

But late in December, just several months into their stay, a dreaded telegram arrived. “We regret to inform you….” Ann was heartbroken. She handed the telegram to her parents, shared embraces and tears, then asked if she could be alone for a while. She went upstairs to her childhood bedroom to weep and pray.

Well over an hour later she came back downstairs to discover that the Christmas tree and all the decorations in the house had been taken down.

“Why, mother?” she asked. “Why did you take all the decorations down?”

Her mother explained that with so much sadness, it just didn’t seem appropriate to try to celebrate Christmas. “Oh, no, Mother”, Ann protested. “Please, let’s put the tree and the lights back up. Christmas was made for times like this!”

That’s true. This Christmas may not be as festive or lighthearted as others, but while my heart is broken, my hope is not. Christmas was made for a time like this! Christmas is a reminder that while this world stinks sometimes, we have a hope that will never fade away. Because of Bethlehem, Calvary and the empty tomb there is a new day coming when the dead in Christ shall rise and all things will be made new!

Jesus reminded us of that reality when He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).

So, let’s believe what we say we believe and behave like we know what the birth of Christ really means. Let’s hug our kids, love our families, share the gospel and make the most of this day that the Lord has made. Let’s be joyful in all circumstances and have a hope-filled Christmas because Jesus Christ has overcome the world. And the best is yet to be!

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