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Monday, December 17, 2018

A Different Christmas

A Different Kind of Christmas
By Richard Maffeo
Christmas Day 2018 will be different this year for many people. It will be a time of mourning, instead of joy. It will be a day of longing for the past, and not one of hope for the future. It will be a time of anxious stress, and not of the peace possible only through the Prince of Peace.
Life-circumstances forced some of you this year to leave your homes and move in with a group of strangers. And as you closed the door behind you, memories of the last 20, 30, even 50 years swept across your soul. Those memories, one by one, had become synonymous with the very fabric of your couches and loveseats and dining room tables and lamps and curtains and pictures on the walls . . . .
You left them all behind because you could only take a few things to your new, and very small apartment. Or nursing home room.
Those poignant memories stung your heart until you bled, didn’t they?
Many of us waking up on December 25 will instinctively turn in bed, looking for the one you lost this year. For some, 2018 meant debilitating health issues that rocked you to your core. For some of you, 2018 shattered your confidence in a God who knows who you are – or even cares.
Yes, Christmas is different this year for many of us. But – and this is the crux of my message to all of us:
In all that is different this Christmas, one thing remains the same. Despite our upheavals, our anger, our losses – one thing remains as unchangeable as – well, as any of God’s truths. It is that one thing that He established as the very foundation of life itself.
Let me try to illustrate it this way:
One plus one equals two. We take that mathematical formula so much for granted that we never think about it as we balance our check book or calculate in our heads how much of a tip to leave our server in the restaurant. But without that fundamental mathematical truth, construction workers could not build even the simplest of homes. Electricians and plumbers could never properly do their jobs. We could never have flown to the moon and back if NASA was uncertain that one and one always and in all circumstances equals two.
In a similar way, there’s a fundamental spiritual truth we hear so often that we take it for granted: “For God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have ever lasting life.”
Taken for granted, or not, that text is the source of life and light and love and hope and promise. John 3:16 is the very basis of Christmas itself – even if it doesn’t feel like Christmas.
In speaking of the first Christmas, Isaiah told us it would be a time when those who walked in darkness would see a great light; It would be a time when those who lived in a dark land would see light shining on them. (Isaiah 9:2-3)
That, too, is the message of Christmas 2018: Light smashing darkness. Hope shattering despair. And it is in holding onto the essential truth of John 3:16 that we will find the antidote for the sorrow and sense of loss so many of us face this Christmas.
Like one plus one, John 3:16 and Christmas is God’s unalterable promise of hope. It is, for all who long to know Jesus, for all who long to love Jesus, Christmas is an explosion of light and life and courage to face tomorrow.
Oh, God! Help us each to remember this Christmas that Christmas is about Jesus. It is about Immanuel – God with us. It is You come from Your throne to lay in an animal feeding trough on a cold December day so that we each who read this or who hear this could have life, even an abundant life.
Even when the circumstances of life have turned our lives inside out.
May God give you this year a merry Christmas, a peaceful Christmas, a thankful Christmas – and a blessed 2019.
Amen.

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