Embrace Difficulty in the Promise of Christmas

 

Peaceful calm at a snowy lakeside shore with a snow-glistening tree on the side and the hint of sunshine in a distant corner

 

Christmas may be a little different this year. The Christmas season may always be hard for some of us, but this year that may be true for many more because 2020 was a difficult year, and Christmas may not seem so merry. Can we still “gather around” in joyful celebration, or will peace on earth fall short this year?

This will be the first time in about 12 years my family will not enjoy a white Christmas…

  

Spending Christmastime in the snow, at a place fondly named God’s playground, has become a family tradition with us. Whatever we could do in the snow, we’ve done it over the years. We’ve also spent Christmas Sundays in our home church away from home, and Christmas Eves singing carols by candlelight in another favorite church. We’ve grown used to recalling the Christmas story while overlooking snow-capped trees and snow-covered mountains.


Man standing and waving from the doorway of a large igloo. Text in photo reads: HOME. Come inside from the bitter cold, abundant warmth untold, streets of gold. JESUS.


This year COVID infections and the lack of available hospital beds forced us to shelter in place. We can’t leave the house except for short trips while distanced from others. We can’t enjoy Christmas as tradition had formerly welcomed.


 ☃


Mary, the mother of Jesus, looked forward to the world's very first Christmas, but it was a difficult 9 months.

When she became pregnant, she was struck with:

·       How to face her fiancé and loved ones with the news that she was pregnant
·       How to face a society that stones women for infidelity
·       Becoming pregnant in a way she’d never imagined

Then she later endured things like:

·       A long, cold journey to Bethlehem (70-90 miles)…probably in her 3rd trimester
·       Sleeping in a stable
·       Giving birth without proper provisions


But her own words to God’s messenger seemed to sustain her:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38).

Mary embraced God’s gift of Jesus in her womb despite the difficulty it brought. She pledged, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” She didn’t complain. She didn’t dread her future. She didn’t turn back. How could she? She would give birth to the Savior, God’s very Son.

How did Mary do it? How did she have a blessed first Christmas in the midst of difficulty? She imagined her first pregnancy very differently.

Mary could have easily lost herself in pity and sorrow. She could have feared and dreaded her socially-unsanctioned pregnancy and journey to Bethlehem. She could have complained about not having a proper bed or place to give birth. She could have turned away from God because His blessed promise to her was met with difficulty after difficulty after difficulty. God’s path for her was just too hard.


But she didn’t.


Early in her pregnancy, these words danced from her lips. I believe they continued to leap in her heart of rhythmic joy in anticipation of the day she would look into the eyes of her Savior:

 

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

 

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham
and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

 Luke 1:46-55

 

Mary didn’t focus on herself and her own issues. She looked on God’s favor with humility. Then she marveled at god’s mercy toward His people. She praised Him for His promise of deliverance. She knew her difficulties would last only a season. She saw past the struggle and recounted the promises of God and the blessings that were sure to come.

She lived out her promise — “May your word to me be fulfilled”  and she stepped into her future with hope, joy, and peace.

Her baby boy was born. And she called His name Emmanuel, which means God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). We know Him as Jesus. And Jesus sacrificed Himself so we can enjoy the same hope, joy, and peace.

Mary did it. She embraced difficulty in her journey to the first Christmas.


 

 

How can we do it? How can we enjoy Christmas in this difficult year? How can we celebrate this year with renewed hope?

Beautifully decorated Christmas tree with a golden star at the top and presents underneath
 

For my family, our experience is nothing like it was for Mary. In all honesty, our Christmas is not difficult. It’s just different. Things aren’t as we planned, but we enjoy meals together. Presents fill every space beneath a beautifully decorated tree. We enjoy family togetherness with Christmas music ringing in the background along with the fragrance of hot cocoa. We play games and enjoy each other’s cooking. We open a gift here and there.

But the most important element: We remember Jesus, His gift of life, and the way He knit us together even deeper than the bonds of family.

Jesus created us to live, but sin brought death. Then Jesus came to earth to die so that we might live with Him (Galatians 4:4-5).

This is our hope! This is why we can celebrate at Christmastime, no matter the difficulty or no matter how different Christmas looks this year.

 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son,
but gave him up for us all
how will he not also, along with him,
graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:31-32

 

Enjoy this song written by Joan Baez and sung by Lauren Daigle. Perhaps it expresses the hearts of Mary and ancient Israel who longed for deliverance.

O Come, O Come,Emmanuel



Find all of my Christmas posts here.

 

If you want to know more about Jesus, the Christmas story, and how to have hope, joy, and peace, please email me at authordlv@att.net. We can have peace, hope, and joy, even in the most difficult of times, when God is our God.

Read more blog posts here.


Comments

  1. Yes, Christmas will be different this year. But, I pray we all look for God in each moment. We can find His comfort in every moment. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Merry Christmas to you, too, Melissa. Yes, it's easy to overlook the ways God is involved in our lives. May we recognize it more.

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  2. So beautiful. I love Mary's joy! Her sheer hope! Her wonderful song of celebration! To me, this expresses the hope of Christmas... the promise of faith fulfilled in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Merry Christmas, Stephen, my friend!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, Mary fully hoped in God who gave her and us His Son. Merry Christmas to you and your family, too!

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  3. Thank you for sharing the model of Mary, who endured a life-changing, unexpected, and potentially deadly first pregnancy that was entirely outside of anything she could have imagined. And yet, her joy was in the Lord. She accepted, rejoiced, and did not complain during all of the hardships the virgin conception of Messiah produced. What a model she provides for us as we endure one of the most difficult years of our lives. To trust the Lord in it, to rejoice in him no matter what, and to wait on him with no complaint is a godly undertaking. Mary inspires us. God bless you and yours as you celebrate your Christmas in an unexpected way. May you and yours have great joy in the Lord!

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    Replies
    1. Mary was such a good model of how to respond to and hope in God. Many worship her, but she herself turned in humility to focus on God. It wasn't about her. It was about God and His Son. Oh, to be a willing vessel like Mary was, to allow God to use me to fulfill as He will. Thank you for adding to the conversation. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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  4. Thank you for this wonderful reminder, Stephen. We are all facing a scaled-down version of our favorite Christmas traditions this year. How humbling it is to contrast that against Mary's experience, welcoming the Lord's hand at work in her own life and in the world. Oh Lord, please give me a heart of humble faith, like Mary's. May I be counted among your servants and let me believe your Word is true and will be fulfilled, no matter now unlikely it may appear in my present difficulties. Merry Christmas to you and your family as you enjoy God's blessings in new ways. Jesus is worth it all!

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    1. Yes, Melissa. Who are we to perhaps complain about our past 9 months when Mary embraced her pregnancy as a gift and blessing from God. I appreciate Mary's humility. Her's is an inspirational story. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  5. I pray we all find the joy of Christ even in these difficult Christmas time of 2020. Thanks for offering us this reminder of the difficulty of that first Christmas. Merry Christmas and God bless

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    1. There is blessing in difficulty. Jesus! He gives us hope and purpose. Merry Christmas!

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  6. Stephen, reflecting on Mary's story does help us. She was able to step over "the way I thought it would be" to the grandeur of submitting to God's plan and trusting Him for the provision needed in uncertain days ahead. Beautiful

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    1. Yes. Mary expected a different life, I'm sure. But what a blessed life she lived instead. Utter reliance on God and appreciation for Him.

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  7. Stephen, I love Mary’s story. Her obedience and steadfast faith in face of trials and challenges fills me with hope and resolve. Thanks for the encouraging post.

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    1. Amen, Anne. Mary saw past her difficulties eventually into the eyes of her Savior as she held Him in her arms and watched Him grow.

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  8. Indeed, this has been a Christmas like no other, but I'm beginning to see the positive aspects this year. We have had plenty of time to read the Word and consider the true meaning of Christmas. Thanks for posting.

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    1. I'm thankful for a different normal, June. It gives us a much deeper perspective, faith, and hope and, certainly, a deeper dependence on Him. Oh, how we need Him.

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  9. We each find our own special ways to honor Christ this Christmas. It's been much quieter in our neighborhood this year. I hope people are focusing more closely on the Christ Child than in earlier years.

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    1. I hope so too, Janice. And I hope, with our neighbors desiring a little more personal contact by now, that we can be a light for them to see Jesus.

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  10. Stephen, I've often pondered Mary's words in Luke 1:38, reflecting on if my heart's response is equal in what the Lord says to me. We had a very white Christmas this year for the first time in a long while. We received 3-4 inches of snow on Christmas Even and additional amounts on Christmas Day with bitter low temps and wind chills. But oh the beauty! Though our sins are as scarlet, God washes them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

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    Replies
    1. I don't know that my heart's response will ever equal Mary's. She is an inspiration. I hope you enjoyed your white Christmas and it brought some different, joyful memories for you guys. Snow is such a perfect illustration of how we are sinful (or dirty/dusty) at the core when we appear perfectly white because of Christ. Have a happy New Year!

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