For most of us, Christmas is a joyous time of year, filled with family gatherings, gift exchanges and various means of celebrating the birth of Christ. The first carol we hear often floods our minds with images of houses filled with guests, festive meals and little faces overcome with excitement in anticipation of the gifts they will receive. We spend our time thinking of creative ways to engage the family with the story of the birth of Christ and praying for opportunities to share Christ with family members who have yet to come to faith.
There are, however, many within the church who have suffered great loss, and the holidays tend to magnify their pain more than they provide the comfort they need.
The ministry of Christ was filled with expressions of compassion and mercy to those who were facing difficult seasons.
We read of widows, lepers, distraught parents and brokenhearted family members that encountered Jesus, only to be overwhelmed with His tremendous expressions of love. Christmas lends us the opportunity to do more than celebrate with loved ones; it provides us the backdrop to express the love of Christ to those who are hurting.
Perhaps you know someone who has lost a loved one in the past year: Go out of your way to reach out to them.
A phone call, an invitation to coffee, an offer to sit together for Christmas Eve service or a thoughtful gift may go a whole lot farther than you ever thought. We often think that an expression of love must be large to be valuable, but the economy of God is quite different. Jesus spoke of the value of a cup of cold water, a personal visit or even a widow's mite. If He values those things, it would do us good to put a high price tag upon them as well and look for simple ways to express love to those who are hurting. Your own personal celebrations might be greatly enhanced by including someone whose heart is broken and needs nothing as much as they need a friend.
Perhaps you have undergone great loss yourself, and your heart has been broken. I know that those wounds run deep and the sorrow is often overwhelming. Without diminishing the difficulty you are facing, I hope the words of Paul would bring you a great deal of comfort. He was writing to a group of believers who had recently suffered the loss of loved ones. "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
The hope that Paul is speaking of is twofold. First, it refers to the fact that those who have died in Christ are in glory, experiencing the wonders of heaven and of intimate fellowship with Christ.
This hope of heaven includes the promise that we will one day be with them again.
We can anticipate and even long for a day when we will be united together in glory. Secondly, this hope refers to the comfort, peace, healing, restoration and strength that Christ will give to us in our time of sorrow. One of the great benefits of being in a relationship with Jesus is that He promises to give us peace that will outlast the storms of life. He said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
Whatever difficulty you are facing, whatever struggle or loss that has broken your heart, be encouraged that the comfort of Christ will mend your broken heart and guard your heart and mind with a peace that passes understanding.