And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? The holidays spring to life beginning in November. Some of us are ready for celebration and hope in a struggling world. Some find warmth and laughter quickly. Others can’t seem to find them at all, often with good reason, at least in the short view.
When I was barely a teen, I was enjoying Christmas blessings in the Big Apple, church and choir festivities, and the magic of decorating our home with evergreens, tinsel, and twinkling lights. One evening, the colors of the lights began to blur. The room, warm from our over-efficient radiators, began to feel unbearably hot. I don’t remember much more of Christmas that year. I had scarlet fever. During months of quarantine and recovery, bored to distraction, I tackled math homework with gusto, making it a game. By spring, I graduated and was awarded highest honors for math. It was a sorely needed boost to my esteem, and I vaguely realized that good could come from bad.
Many Christmases came and went, with both expanding spiritual joy and greater awareness of the world’s many deficits. Then one bleak November afternoon, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was stunned, overwhelmed with fears, anger, devastation, confusion, and spiritual collapse. I raged at God for hours; then fell helpless on his mercy. I asked “Why me?” as most of us do … and wonder of wonders, God showed me! In that following year, with powerful support, my faith not only reappeared but also grew in leaps and bounds, and I recovered physically as well. Most importantly, I learned to trust God and His plan, whatever happened, not just my own.
To me, this is the Christmas message: Whatever you are going through, even the darkest nights of the soul, the birth of hope and direct communion with God were the first Christmas gifts. For many, those gifts are still half-unwrapped; let’s make unwrapping those gifts a top priority.
Prayer: Lord, You are the author of our hope; that’s the real joy of Christmas. Amen.