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Points to Ponder: Tis the Season to beÖMiserable?

Points to Ponder
Tis the Season to beÖMiserable?

"Tis the season to be jolly", the song says. But for many people this season is a painful ordeal. This "most wonderful time of the year" is for many the most dreaded time of their year.

During December I have conducted three funerals within a ten-day period, have dealt with marital breakdowns and break ups, and have lifted up prayers for young parents facing terminal cancer and little children suffering in the hospital. We also have hosted about fifteen homeless men for a week as part of Laurelís Winterhaven program. Most of the men have no family, or at least a family who will associate with them.

So we see a lot of suffering and death. Death comes in many forms; not just when a personís body dies, but when other things cease to be in oneís life. Marriages die. The loss of mental health (Alzheimerís) or physical health (cancer, heart ailments, the effects of a stroke, etc.) will limit or take away oneís independence and ability to function freely. The loss of a child crushes a parentís hopes. A childís loss of a parent through divorce or death likewise yields a crushing blow. And Christmas-time serves to magnify and intensify the pain.

Is there some way, some different perspective we can take about this season? It keeps coming, right on time, every year. Must a person who has had less than an ideal life endure Christmas time as a painful reminder of all that has been lost?

Itís helpful that Christmas Day is on a Sunday this year. We recognize the Lordís Day, as a "little Easter" every week. For those Christians who worship on Sunday, it is supposed to be a weekly reminder of Jesus Christís victory over sin and the power of death. Think about it. Every funeral is held between the little Easters. We begin every week reminded that "because He lives I can face tomorrow"; that in Christ, even if I go through death this week, death will not go through me. As David says in the Psalm:

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with meÖ" (Psalm 23:4)

So Christmas is the time we remember that the God of the universe, the One who created us and those whom we love, came into this world. Death, suffering, pain, and misery have been the regular stuff of life on this earth. But God came down. Not to snap His fingers or give a simple order. Dealing with evil is much more complicated than mere mortals can understand. He came as the child of a crisis pregnancy. In Maryís day, a woman found pregnant (and not by her fiancťe or husband) could be stoned.

He was born in poverty, in a smelly sheep pen. As an adult, He was homeless; traveling on foot in the midst of the misery of that world. He experienced exhaustion, hunger and thirst, the unfairness of people in power, and the persecution of those who oppose out of jealousy. God came and "got His hands dirty" with life on earth.
"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
He understands. Think of it. God came down out of the glories of heaven, out of perfect beauty and peace; and He went through Christmas (so to speak). The next thirty-three years would be filled with hard work, struggling to live life as every human being had to do. His whole earthly life was focused toward His appointment with suffering and death, "even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8).
When we speak of "excruciating" pain, we are using an adjective that has its root in the word "crucifixion". So whatever pain we may be enduring, we look at the cross as the epitome of intense suffering.
And while He hung there for six hours, naked and bleeding, He utters from Psalm 22:1 the words many of us cry out in our worst moment.
"My God My God why have you forsaken Me?"
Jesus went through Christmas, born to die that we might never be enslaved to sinís power and deathís sting.
Christmas is on Sunday this year. The timing is perfect. The perspective is sharply focused by the day.
"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4)
Death is all around us. Itís just a matter of time before tragedy strikes, the diagnosis comes, or the illness finishes its work. But God stepped into the heart of our worst pain and fears, and then from that cross said "It is finished" (John 19:30)
On that first Easter Sunday, He rose from the grave victorious. He is the "first fruits" of believers who have died, a guarantee of their resurrection (I Thessalonians 4:15-16). In Christ, we are the children of God. Christmas marks when He came down for us. Easter Sunday marks when He rose from death for us. Without Easter, Christmas would not be Ė there would be no point to it. Easter makes Christmas.
This is the time when you can choose to face the pain and sing. The victory has been won. Tragedy has its moment of impact, but in Christ, YOU have the final word Ė ETERNAL LIFE.
Merry Christmas

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