Last night I sat in the hallway with my newborn on my chest, surrounded by my other children perched on pillows, while the terrifying sounds of strong winds, crashing thunder, and pelting rain punctuated our conversation. The soundtrack of Fox News sang in the background, accompanied by the local, eery tornado siren, and the shrill alarm of an Emergency Alert.
When the alarm had first screamed I felt my heart rate increase, and unexpected tears tried to come to my eyes. I pushed them back in favor of a brave voice as I instructed my children to take shelter in the hall. And as we sat there waiting for what may come I told them The Christmas Story, the story of the birth of Jesus.
Last night the storm raged through our area, but we were not touched by it. I was grateful, I was humbled, but my heart was also grieved for those that it did come upon. I watched the news, saw the pictures of destruction so nearby, and I hugged my children a little bit tighter. A lot tighter actually.
As I read of lives lost, homes lost, and the needs for not just presents under the tree, but the simplest of necessities, like clothing and food, I realized it would be a difficult Christmas for some this year.
Even before vicious storms blew through and blew down homes I knew of many a savage tempest that tore through so many hearts this holiday season. For so many in the midst of grief and nagging memories their Christmas would not be Merry; it would be merely lacking.
Normally joyous Christmas carols would fall flat, and decking the halls would seem hardly worth the effort in the face of loss.
Empty chairs at the dinner table, empty bank accounts at the worst possible time, and hearts and minds empty of hope and a spirit of celebration for the season. It’s still Christmas; it’s just not very Merry.
I cannot understand why tragedy comes, why bad things happen to nice people, or why the good die young. I don’t have the answers to sickness, famine, war, or even why tornadoes come two days before Christmas. All I know is who is in control of it all, and that my whole heart trusts in Him, no matter what storms come my way.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. (ESV)
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (ESV)
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NASB)
Sometimes, because of our earthly circumstances, Christmastime does not seem very Merry. That’s the thing about circumstances; they are fluid. They alter and change, and they don’t always work out as planned. But there is one thing about the holidays that is constant. It’s so certain that we take it for granted, and in our shaky circumstances we can easily forget the rock-solid promise that is Christmas.
Christmas means salvation, eternal life, and an infinity in Heaven where there is no more pain, no more crying, no more dying, no more shame. So even when life on earth is cruel and we cannot understand why, we can be certain of the gift of forgiveness of sin, and that’s something to be Merry about after all.