When You're Looking At a Bittersweet Christmas

Ah ... she so wanted it to be a Norman Rockwell scenario.  

Soft music playing in the background as the loving family gathered around the well-appointed table, lavishly laden with all manner of delectables.  The heirloom china and silver and crystal sparkling in candlelight's glow, the well-used name tags fashioned out of tattered index cards by sticky little fingers so many years ago reminding her of every memorable holiday that they'd spent together.

Mama's piping hot broccoli cheese casserole ... Aunt Tillie's delicious sausage stuffing ... tart yet sweet cranberry-orange relish made with Papa ... Sister's fragrant yeast rolls.

And then Grandpa would bring out the huge browned bird, carving it like a pro with everyone oohing and ahhing.  Each hand would eagerly reach for the next in a chain of grace as the patriarch led in prayer for the food.  Happy conversation and peals of laughter filled the room to the brim.  They would eat, drink, and be merry.  Stuff themselves senseless.  And bask in the glow of it all.

Fast forward a season ... or a few.

There is no well-appointed table and the fondly remembered delectables are few and far between.  The once intact family is sparsely represented and they're lucky if there's a pot of soup in sight.  The fine accouterments that once decorated the feasting place are gathering dust in some closet somewhere.

Grandpa's no longer with us and Aunt Tillie's not manning the kitchen.  The kids are grown and gone, in more ways than one.  No carols play in the background.  And if there's one other hand to hold, it would be a great big surprise.

In the past year, you might have found yourself encountering life-altering situations or difficult transitions that have left you reeling with exhaustion, numb with grief.

Or perhaps relationships that you once held dear have morphed into something distinctly disappointing, frightening, or completely non-existent.  You find yourself feeling betrayed, excluded, abandoned.

In the midst of your disorienting upside-down-inside-out circumstances, God is faithfully reaching out with tender invitations to your wounded heart.  For He's always in the business of inviting us to something deeper, stronger, and more substantial.

And we often find ourselves more receptive to His wooing when we've hit bottom, facing losses to great to bear, grappling with changes too complex to fathom.


Speaking of life-altering situations and complex changes, we read in Luke 1 how Jesus' young mama-to-be was visited by the angel Gabriel with an astonishing announcement that she would birth the Son of the Most High.  Nothing would ever be the same for Mary after the angel visited.  Nothing.

In the midst of this stupendous miracle, news that begged to be pondered and wrestled with, Mary acknowledges her fear and her questions and then lays them aside to utter an extraordinary, expectant 'yes' of faith to God's invitation.

'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word' {v. 38}.

And then this brave young woman moves into a completely new, uncharted season.  We find nothing in Scriptures that talks about Mary's parents.  She could face abandonment, scandal, even stoning if her intended husband couldn't grasp and accept this miraculous news.

So Mary hurries off to spend her first trimester with relative Elizabeth, who herself is facing her own startling pregnancy in her later years.  And in the hill country of Elizabeth's home, Mary, embracing the immensity of God's calling on her life, sings her carol of joy ... 'my soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior' {vs. 46-55}.


As you walk through this challenging season, may your heart be attuned to the whispered invitations from Mary's Son.  May you say, 'yes, Lord,' even as you acknowledge the troubling thoughts whirling around in your aching head and the myriad of emotions that are assailing your tender heart.

And somewhere in the process of hearing His still, small voice, may you find yourself singing your own very personal carol of joy, knowing that your Redeemer is loving, gracious, and kind.  And may you be confident in the realization that He will not grow tired or weary as He carries you through this, your bittersweet season, in His arms of comfort and grace.

would you share this with your social media friends
... or maybe your Bible Study or small group?



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