For some folks, this time of year is difficult. Hearts can feel as frozen and cold as the ground, and the crisp air can easily feel stinging instead of refreshing.
Several days ago, the northern Willamette Valley was graced with several inches of snow. It was beautiful, and still is; however the lingering cold front quickly turned a winter wonderland into dangerous conditions for travelers. It reminds me of a Christmastime in my not-so-distant past.
My husband and I were visiting his family in Washington state for Christmas. It snowed while we were there. In fact, we were having so much fun with family members (some we rarely saw), that the decision was made to stay an extra day to romp in the deep snow. I remember talking with my father on the phone. He’d been especially vocal about wanting us to come back to Oregon and spend more time together. My dad was quite disappointed that we weren’t returning just yet; however we still ended the conversation on good terms.
About an hour into our journey home, Mom had called, asking me to phone when we arrived. We happily discovered that it had also snowed a bit there, so as I stood by our front door, looking at the other-worldly landscape, I called. She let me know that Dad had remained in bed all day, and had passed away peacefully in his sleep a few hours earlier. Mom had checked on him a few times before realizing the final time that he wasn’t breathing. This was three days after Christmas. Sadly, not everyone could make it to the funeral, due mostly to the hardened snow and ice that stubbornly coated the roads that whole week.
Thankfully, my father and I talked and spent time together during the months leading up to Christmas. He’d been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (from inhaling fumes during a truck electrical fire) the previous year, and had been using oxygen for a few months, but it was still somewhat of a shock. Though I sort of regret not returning more quickly to see him for a few more moments, we had already talked things out the best we could, and I had shared my faith with him. We had made peace.
Sadly, some souls may not have had that privilege, and may muddle through the holidays with a palpable emptiness and bitter regrets. Many others try to ignore unresolved differences with estranged family or friends.
The good news is, we don’t have to live like that!
Hope & New Life
The gift of Christmas is for all time! Hope came in a manger, Jesus bore our sin and pain on the cross, and then the promise of a powerful new life sprang from the tomb!
Put another way, if we come to Him with hope and faith like a child, trusting that He knows and has taken on all of our sorrows and mistakes, then He creates beauty out of the ashes of our life!
No matter what you have been through, whom you have lost, or how badly you might feel things are messed up, there is ALWAYS hope, ALWAYS forgiveness and ALWAYS renewal available through Christ!
If you have been hurt, just remember what Christ did for you. He endured pain and all kinds of temptations, ultimately taking the punishment for all of our screw-ups, on the cross. Our sins did not put Him there, but in awesome love, He willingly gave up His life for ours. Nothing anyone has done or could ever do will come close to that. We have forgiveness through Christ, so we must forgive others. Before we even come to the manger or “go tell it on the mountain” and offer praises, “if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you” (Mark 11:25).
If you get along with all of your family members, count yourself especially blessed! If that is not the case, do what you can to pursue reconciliation and patch things up. Just remember: In the end, you can only do what you can do. The rest is up to the Lord. We are each responsible for our own choices and ultimately accountable to Him.
All of us know folks who have lost loved ones. Show them extra patience and love.
If someone has hurt you, forgive them. (You’re really releasing yourself!)
If you hurt someone, ask for forgiveness. (Humble yourself by taking responsibility for your part.)
Like Jesus, they may reject us. Love them anyway. (1 John 4:11)
They may not accept forgiveness. Forgive them anyway. (Romans 12:20)
Don’t let the winter snow chill your heart. Let His love melt it and make a new start!
The greatest gift of Christmas is love.
Don’t wait! Claim it, embrace it and then double it by sharing it today!
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
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