One of the biggest lies causing people stress and disappointment this time of year is the idea that “Christmas fixes everything.”
It’s in every advertisement, Christmas movie, or holiday song—the concept that everything will work out at Christmas time.
Every broken relationship will be fixed.
Every childhood memory that causes issues in our lives will be resolved.
Financial struggles will magically go away.
Broken hearts always find love and healing.
Unfortunately, these things aren’t always true. Sometimes Christmas is hard. Actually, for a lot of people---Christmas is hard.
In my own personal life, I’ve had a mixture of amazing Christmases and really, really hard Christmases. When my brother and I were growing up, my Mom did her absolute best to give us warm, happy Christmas memories. December was filled with Christmas baking, making Christmas decorations, and all kinds of holiday fun. On Christmas morning, my Mom was the first one up to open presents (followed closely behind by me—the child who NEVER slept on Christmas Eve). Then we’d visit relatives and share a big meal with family and friends. The truth was that during the early years of my life, my Mom did her best to shield my brother and I from anything that was going on behind the scenes at Christmas and give us a holiday that was just like you see in the Hallmark movies.
It wasn’t until we were older that things began to change.
Actually, my Dad began to change. Well, maybe change isn’t the word---looking back, I can see that my Dad never really did like Christmas or participate in many of our holiday traditions. Yet, it wasn’t until circumstances began to change, pushing him to deal with memories and issues from his own life, that it became really obvious that he REALLY didn’t like Christmas.
That’s when our holidays went from really good to really difficult and sometimes really, really bad.
I remember one holiday that was particularly horrific. Going into the Christmas season, my Mom had requested that we scale back the holidays in a big way because she just couldn’t take the stress of my Dad’s moods, his angry outbursts, or his abusive temper tantrums. (Yeah, things were that bad.) In an attempt to keep him from giving anyone a gift that expressed his true emotions (never heartwarming or endearing) we decided that we’d skip personal gifts that year. Our hope was that eliminating his “triggers” would also eliminate any of the craziness that had surrounded Christmas in the past.
Unfortunately, even our best efforts didn’t work. The month of December was filled with intense persecution and an oppressiveness that seemed impossible to overcome.
On December 17, a Christmas card arrived in the mail that caused him to become very angry. We didn’t get much sleep that night as he vented all of his anger and frustration toward my Mom. He became violently angry and wouldn’t back down from anything. Even the usual techniques we used to talk him down and make him see things rationally didn’t work. It was way past midnight when he said the words, “What good would it do for me to go to a psychiatrist to deal with my issues---it isn’t going to change you?”
Sleep was hard to come by that night. With those cruel words placing all the blame on my Mom, her heart was broken. My Dad fell asleep, and we stayed up most of the night waiting for him to leave for work so we could have some peace.
While we were waiting we asked questions like: “Do we need to totally cancel Christmas to end the persecution?” “Could our pastor (who specialized in deliverance ministry) help my Dad?” Mostly, the question we were all asking was: “When was God going to help us?”…maybe even a little more honestly we were asking, “Was God going to help us?”
The next day, we walked around like zombies.
Another night of horror---another Christmas ruined.
More words spoken that could never be taken back.
No apologies---just accusations.
My Mom was devastated. The accusation that everything was her fault landed hard. After spending the night asking God asking for help, we didn’t know what else to do so we decided to run some errands. (After all, life goes on)
After running our first set of errands, we discovered that we needed to go back to the house to pick up some things before we could run our second set of errands. Looking for a particular package that was scheduled to be delivered, I went to the front door while my Mom went to the back door.
Finding no package, I went back to the car to wait for my Mom. When she didn’t return quickly, I knew that something was wrong---so I went to check on her.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the picture of her standing by our back door crying. She was holding a small Christmas bag and reading a note that was attached.
At first, I panicked thinking of all the bad possibilities that could be in the note.
When she handed it to me, I realized that it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.
The note was typed out on a computer, on a red and green background, but it was not signed. I was addressed to my brother and read:
“Recently, your family has been in my thoughts and prayers, especially your mom. I wanted to do something to encourage all of you.
I wanted to give something to your Mom to encourage her. I hope she shops at Giant. God loves her and is pleased with her. She is not the problem. God sees it all. He will move to help her. God moves suddenly.”
It was amazing. No one knew what happened at our house just a few short hours ago. No one knew the accusations that were spoken---no one could have known expect God. As proof that the note was a miracle, enclosed in the gift bag were two gift cards to Giant grocery story for $50 each.
Here’s why this gift was so significant. Remember I said that we were not buying each other personal gifts that year? Well, earlier in December when my Mom and I were alone, I asked her what she would like for Christmas if we were buying presents. (I was thinking about getting her something and giving it to her privately.)
She said, “Do you know what I’d really like? I’d like $100 to go to the Giant grocery store and buy whatever I want without worrying about the grocery budget. I’d just like to enjoy the trip.”
No one knew about that conversation (and I didn’t have $100 to pull it off)
Only God knew what was said privately.
Only He knew that we’d see these gift cards as a sign that God was with us---that He saw everything, that He knew the truth, and that He would help us. What a miracle!
The God of the Universe stepped into our situation and released my Mom from all of the false accusations my Dad had spewed out the night before. He acted as the ultimate Judge saying, “I know exactly what’s going on and I know it’s not your fault.”
Of course, the gift bag didn’t just contain a gift for my Mom. It also contained a gift card to Staples for my brother with enough money to purchase a laptop computer. Back then, Jamie was just starting to write for Men’s Ministries. Again, only Mom and I knew that he was even looking at laptops and we all knew we couldn’t afford one. Yet, here was over $400 on a gift card and the note said specifically: “Every writer needs a laptop. Use this to invest in your ministry.” Making the miracle even greater, it "just happened" that Staples had a laptop on sale for $400 that weekend!
Finally, there was a gift for me: a gift card to a department store to treat myself to something new. “A blessing for the blessing that I had been to others” the card read.
Honestly, I was grateful for the gift card. However, I was so much more grateful to know that in a time in my life when nothing made sense and God’s path seemed very unclear, God was very active and present in our situation. He had everything under control and God was with us.
That was the miracle that we experienced that Christmas: The assurance that God was with us.
I wish I could say that our circumstances miraculously changed, my Dad repented and changed his ways and Christmas has been happily ever after ever since, but I can’t.
What I can say is that we changed that Christmas.
Knowing that God was with us---that the King of the Universe took time to make a house call to a little family in a small town that most of the world thought was crazy---changed our perspective.
It was enough to know that God was with us. Even without gifts or a tree, we celebrated that Christmas because we knew we were held in the arms of our Heavenly Father Who knew all, saw all, and had everything under control.
Immanuel---God with us. That is something to celebrate.
I don’t know what you’re going through this Christmas. I don’t know if you’re celebrating the most wonderful time of the year or going through one of the most painful seasons you’ve ever endured. What I do know is that whatever you’re experiencing this holiday season, God is with you.
He is actively and presently involved in your life---even in the darkest of times, that gives you something to celebrate.
When you get right down to it---that is the real meaning of Christmas—God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to die for the sins of man, so that we could have restored fellowship with Him. It really isn’t about the presents, the decorations, or the festivities (although all of these things are nice). It’s about the fact that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believed on Him could spend eternity (that’s forever) with Him in Heaven.
God with us now, and the opportunity for us to spend eternity with God in Heaven forever---that’s the real meaning of Christmas and the true Christmas miracle.