This week I’ve been thinking a great deal about those who struggle during the holidays.  Though it’s a joyous season, for many the season can be rife with pain, loneliness, and feelings of deep heartache.  Usually I need to be reminded of that, but this year the stark reality could not be avoided as I dreaded confronting what I feared would be a difficult Christmas personally.  I know that I am not alone.  I know that this has been a particularly trying time for many families because of all that is going on with the economy and the rise in unemployment.  I know of  several families who have lost jobs and homes, or are on the verge of doing so.  Some have even lost their  families as the financial strain took their toll on already fragile commitments, the weight of the burden proving too overwhelming for love long grown cold.   I just finished reading a letter from a man who is now living in fear of what will come of his marriage as he confronts the reality that his wife’s love for him probably will not outlive the difficulties brought about by the financial ruin they’ve experienced over the last few months in light of our nations economic collapse.  Yet, at the birth of Christ the Angels were heard to say,
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” – Luke 2:14 
 But where is the peace for these families?  The compassion I feel for them are more real to me this season more than any other because over the last twelve months I’ve also lost most every thing of value to me (except the clothes on my back and some books), and have lost relationships that were at one time close, even dear to me.  So this season was a test for me.  Did I truly believe that Jesus was the reason for the season (yes, a cliche, I know)?  Would that sentiment be very real to me this year (Oh, how I needed it to be!), or would it be exposed as just another Christmas jingle, or cliche. 
I’m reminded of a song by Rob Mathes, William The Angel.  Basically it’s a story about a depressed Angel with a broken wing at Christmas time.  I like the idea that even an Angel to the King can sometimes feel down at Christmas time, but he continues to hope and pray for peace on earth (and the healing of his own broken wing).  Christmas and the New Year can be a lot like that for many people.  They’ve struggled for years, maybe like William The Angel, faithfully serving God and man, with seemingly little to show for it but the gift of a broken wing and a prayer.   Which brings up a seeming paradox (the scriptures are full of them).  Though the angels proclaimed peace on earth and goodwill toward men, Jesus Himself said these words,

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Matt. 10:34-39

How does one reconcile these words of Jesus with the “Christmas” time proclamation of the Angels?  It can really drive you crazy if you let it.  

Then I am reminded  that Jesus, Immanuel, is God with us, our greatest gift, our source of every good thing, our provision itself, and I am encouraged, because as Paul the apostle said,

“He is our peace.” – Eph. 2:14

It is in him that all of our true desires are met and deepest hopes fulfilled no matter the trial or circumstance.  But I am also challenged. There is a lot I’m believing God for in my life right now, but If Jesus’ words about true peace are true, then I must learn to accept that He may not cooperate with my personal program for emotional happiness (at least not on my terms). We may be deprived of many comforts we’ve grown accustomed to.  Maybe we’re haunted by the Ghost of Christmases past, or the spectre of what the New Year may (or may not) hold.  Maybe you too have lost everything dear to you, or like my friend, fear that you might.  Please consider that He wants to give us a greater gift: Himself.  He wants us to learn first hand what it means to have a “friend who sticks closer than a brother”. 

This Christmas season some are receiving a wonderful gift in relearning lessens they had forgotten in their prosperity, and reclaiming an intimacy with God even in the midst of their lack.  Though most wouldn’t choose to “lose” their life in this way, once confronted with the reality of it, they have had to choose whether to give up in despair, or to surrender and continue to trust Him and His goodness even in the middle of their trial.  I still struggle, and often times my flesh rebels, and my soul truly aches, and I’m tempted to sit in an ash heap like Job (or William).  But I am learning (I haven’t arrived) to be at rest in the midst of terrible circumstances, and this is a wonderful gift.  Jesus is teaching us that He really is enough, even if things never work out the way we hope.  What we’ll be left with is an increased awareness that He who had everything became nothing, so that we who had nothing, could have Him who is everything.  And that is more than enough.  And having freely released our hold on everything else we thought we needed, He leaves us with this promise:

“I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, etenal life.” – Luke 18:29-30 

Below I have left a link to Rob Mathes’ William The Angel.  My prayers go out to you, and in this New Year may your wings be repaired and your hearts be filled with joy that surpasses all understanding!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh3UYHx2FE0

Peace,

Roc

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