Happy New Year everyone! We hope you had a merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. We hope you have experienced the blessing of Christ and God’s presence this Christmas. We’ve had a blessed Christmas this year. Our family was all together, as well as our extended ministry family which came together for our annual Christmas service/party. Yes, our Christmas has been blessed. It wasn’t always a merry one though. A number of our people have experienced loss or crisis so that our time together, while meaningful and heartfelt, was not always merry.
In our community we celebrate Christmas with those suffering from chemical addition, homelessness and often street violence… and during this holy season I wonder, what does Christmas mean to those who suffer?
What would Christmas mean to me if I was forcibly separated from my children?
What would Christmas mean to me if I knew that it could well be my last…?
What would Christmas mean to me if I was in bondage to a drug addiction which had completely sapped all emotional and physical strength…?
What would Christmas mean to me if, a loved one lay sick or dying…?
What would Christmas mean to me if my mother had told me that we wouldn’t have Christmas because she had no money?
What would Christmas mean to me if I felt alone and had no real connection to anyone… no sense of community?
What would Christmas mean to me if my life was in danger and people were trying to hurt me?
What would Christmas mean to me if I didn’t have a job, couldn’t pay the rent, didn’t have any food…?
Jesus said “Blessed are you, when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you…” (Matt. 5.11). That was hard for me to understand for a long time… until I was suffering and persecuted. Then I discovered Christ was right there with me. Through my suffering and struggle he became more real, more relevant to me.
What would Christmas be like if it was a time of struggle and suffering for me, as it is for many? If we read the Christmas story it was not an easy time for Mary and Joseph… angels and shepherds and wise men notwithstanding. But it ushered in the time of Emmanuel, God with us, apart from whom I cannot know God. So, I have discovered what Christmas means to me. This is what we try to share with our friends who are struggling now and all through the year… Blessed are you! God is with you through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ. A very real help, a very real Presence, in time of need.