Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year


Psalm 28:7
The Lord is my strength and shield.  I trust him with all my heart.  He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.  I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

"My favorite definition of joy is someone is glad to be with me." ~Christa Black Gifford, Heart Made Whole

Christmas, we are told in the Andy Williams' classic tune, "is the most wonderful time of the year . . . the hap-happiest season of all."  The twinkling lights, the sweet aroma of gingerbread, the pungent odor of freshly cut evergreen, the gaily wrapped gifts nestled under the tree, carols in the air, the exuberant laughter of children, family gatherings - what's not to like?

But for some of us, Christmas is anything but merry and bright.  Perhaps this year has seen the loss of a loved one, chronic illness, an unexpected lay-off, or any host (not heavenly) of troubles weighing heavily upon your heart.

Where's the joy in that?

I recall, as if it were yesterday, my first Christmas after my husband, John, passed away.  I take my children, then ten and thirteen, to my parents' home to celebrate together.  Since nine months have gone by since we lost John, I mistakenly think I can emotionally hold myself together.

But the moment my children begin unwrapping their presents, tears spring to my eyes.  A vivid memory of John and me exchanging gifts the Christmas before flashes before me like an unwanted newsreel.  We were so glad just to be with each other!

Now all that is gone.

Yes, I have my family and friends.  I'm not alone, I reason.  But still, this pain.  This excruciating hurt.  Dear Jesus, will it ever go away?  Will I ever know joy again?

In the last chapter of her book, Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford writes:  "Jesus' intention for us as believers is never to suppress the truth of our emotions and put on fake religious smiles, attempting to deal with very natural feelings on our own.  When life hurts, we hurt just as He did - and that's simply okay.  He never wants us to beat up our hearts as they bleed, kicking our emotions to the side, quoting Scripture at them in anger, or willing ourselves to change . . . Feeling our pain doesn't prove we lack faith - it proves our need for constant connection  with God."

Constant connection with God . . .

As I struggled along those many years ago, I wish I had had Gifford's words to guide me.  How much quicker I might have healed, opened my eyes to the constant promise of joy in Jesus, if only I understood that He wasn't feeling sorry for me from afar, but weeping along with me, holding me close in His comforting arms.

If only I had known, as I know now, that Jesus, my Lord and Savior, is always glad to be with me.

And He is only too glad to be right there with you, this Christmas and for all the Christmases yet to come.

If you are struggling, my friends, may this knowledge give you peace and hope and joy at this most wonderful time of the year.

Love and joy come to you,
And a Merry Christmas, too!
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Amen!

~



This post concludes our book discussion of Heart Made Whole by Christa Black Gifford.  Thanks so much for joining Jason StasyszenSarah SalterGlynn Young, and me as we journeyed together through this inspirational book.  
May God bless!

18 comments:

  1. Years ago, and I don't know if it's still true, December and January were the months with the highest rates of suicide. This didn't make sense to me, until someone explained that these two months were some of the most tension-filled and stress-filled times of the year (college students, family gatherings with underlying problems, etc.). It's as if we see the despair of the world and the hope of the season side by side.

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    1. Hope and despair, side by side . . . That is true for so many at the holiday time. And I think you are spot on about the suicide rate, so sad to say, but I have heard that statistic multiple times. I'm so thankful that God did see me through the sorrowful times, never letting me completely lose sight of Him in it all.
      Love and blessings, Glynn!

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  2. Losing someone over the holidays (whatever they may be) is a terrible thing-because the holiday is forever infused with that loss. but, you found a way to keep the joy, by reveling in the moments- that's great.
    By the way, that song was written by two Jewish fellows specifically for Andy Williams (and his show). Kind of a desire to one up the Bing Crosby tunes.

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    1. I didn't know that "fun fact" about the origin of this song, Roy. Very cool!
      Yes, the holidays are difficult when we've recently lost loved ones. My father passed in 2014; his birthday was Christmas Day, so the holiday will always be bittersweet for me.
      Love and blessings!

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  3. May your memories be sweet, may this advent bring you joy, may the new year coming brim over with hope.

    Merry Christmas, Martha ...

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    1. Thank you so much, Linda! God bless you with a Merry Christmas and wonderful holiday!
      Love and blessings!

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  4. A very merry and joyous Christmas to you Martha. For many years I felt great sadness at Christmas time. With the passing of my mom, my dad, and my grandma 2 days before Christmas one year, it seemed for many years the sadness that engulfed me at Christmas would guarantee me a blue Christmas for the rest of my days. Fortunately, time passed, Jesus' love engulfed me, and I found joy with my family again, if for no other reason that we are together. Blessings to you.

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    1. Kathy, that is such a touching story . . . I completely understand that blue Christmas syndrome. As you probably already know, my dad passed in 2014; his birthday was Christmas Day, so the holiday is certainly not without many memories and a few tears.
      Love and blessings!

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  5. Your headline brought the song immediately to my mind. Now I can't stop singing it. LOL But what a powerful story you share there. The holiday certainly do rub the raw areas of our hearts. I had a good friend tell me once that grief is like an roller coaster - you never know where the dips and curves come along and they almost always surprise you. Prayers with you, Martha

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    1. So sorry I got that song stuck in your head today, Jean, although there could be worse ones!
      Yes, the holiday can play havoc on our hearts at times. No matter what I'm feeling these days, though, I focus on the hope of the season and Jesus' promise to come again. It makes the memories of cherished loved ones easier to bear.
      May your Christmas be merry and bright!
      Love and blessings!

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  6. What a sweet/sad/sweet story about Christmas. I have friends and family members for whom this season of joy is a season of pain and isolation. Your post is a promise of joy coming with the morning. Psalm 30:5. As for you, I'm happy for you that Christmas is once again a wonderful time of the year.

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    1. Yes, Galen, it is not a happy season for so many folks out there; I so hope if a reader is one of them, that they will realize they are not alone, nor are they forgotten.
      And joy certainly does come in the morning - the dawn will break, and all will be well!
      Love and blessings!

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  7. Hi Martha! Oh my goodness, what a broken heart you must have had! And I'm sure you were trying to keep it together for the sake of your children too.
    I have become so aware of pain and sadness in other's lives, not everyone lives in a complete family, or in a functional one. Sad things happen no matter what time of the year, and holidays can bring those feelings front and center.
    I pray for all this holiday time, that everyone has someone to talk to, someone to care. That's really one of the main tenets of Christmas don't you think? God came to us to save us...we are called to save each other too.
    Blessing upon blessing to you and yours this Christmas. What a pleasure it has been to be connected to you this year. I look forward to 2017, and learning more and more from you!
    Ceil

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    1. My heart was shattered, Ceil, but my children were such a help in keeping me going, lifting my spirits, and giving me a reason to love. I don't know if they know what an inspiration they were to me then; I need to tell them!
      I love your prayer, too. We all definitely need to feel cared about, not just at Christmas, but all year
      round. The world would be such a better place if we all made that effort to reach out to others in need of comfort and kindness.
      Love and blessings!

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  8. Martha, thank you so much for sharing your heart. Christmas is challenging without special loved ones or for those who simply don't have family in their lives. It truly is a bittersweet time--wanting to rejoice because of Who we are truly celebrating, yet grieving who/what we don't have anymore (or perhaps never did!).

    Merry Christmas, my friend!

    Love and blessings!

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    1. Kim, I'm truly thinking about you and praying for you, especially at this season. It is so difficult to face the holidays without family. Hoping that you will take comfort and joy in knowing that Jesus holds your heart, and He will always be there for you.
      Merry Christmas!
      Love and blessings!

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  9. "...if only I understood that He wasn't feeling sorry for me from afar, but weeping along with me, holding me close in His comforting arms." That's beautiful and so true. I can't feel anyone else's pain, but I can grieve alongside and give them room to feel and process. That's what community is all about. Thanks for sharing this, Martha. Blessings to you this Christmas and a wonderful new year.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words here, Jason, and I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Taking a hiatus from blogging sure does have its pitfalls, no matter how necessary we may feel it is.
      Praying the New Year will be one of love and wonders for you!
      Love and blessings!

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