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(Note: this post was originally published Christmas Eve, 2015.  It has been updated and republished for 2016)

Today, 77 years ago, my Dad was born (that’s him in the picture above when he was a teenager/young man).  Sadly, he did not see his 55th birthday, abruptly and unexpectedly taken from us as the result of a heart attack.  This grievous and dreadful event capped an approximately 18-month period when a dear uncle, my precious grandmother and my respected father were all seemingly snatched from our lives.

In the last 6 months, I’ve watched as both my Mom and another uncle (who married my wife and me) have had their bodies ravaged by Parkinson’s disease and their minds ravaged by age and its accompanying ills.

Both of these periods have resulted in wounded hearts, fractured faith and voids in my life.

Growing up, Christmas always represented a time of hope for me.  Year after year, I would ponder and reflect that God showed He is faithful to His promises and to us in the sending of His Son, Immanuel, God with us.  Year after year, I anticipated that life would become more and more fulfilling; that my calling and purpose would be revealed and, with sincere effort, fulfilled; that my loved ones would find and grow in Christ and God the Father.

But as I’ve grown older and witnessed & shared in the pain of dear friends losing children during pregnancy or childbirth; of the unexpected and unexplained loss of family; of the shattering impact of divorce of seemingly rock-solid couples; of the numbing, toxic and eroding effect of “post-modern/post-truth” culture on the young (including my own children); of the life-changing/world-shrinking effects of Parkinson’s and other diseases; of the immense struggle to adapt to the results of stroke, Alzheimer’s, Lupus, aging – I’ve struggled more and more with belief.  Hope has often seemed a light disappearing from view as I travel farther down “the race set before me.”  And I battle feeling as if my life has been invalidated as the institutions I’ve counted on seem to have declared my accomplishments as inconsequential; my beliefs as ignorant, my faith as unprofitable and counterproductive.  Immanuel?  God with us?  Sometimes, I confess, I have misgivings as to whether that is true…..

But I’m continually brought up by the fact that the evils of this world do not contradict God nor His Son. “In this world you will have trouble,” He told us.  Trouble of my own making and trouble resulting from a world increasingly spurning God and His Son.  We are described as imbued with the dignity of God and yet infected with death, fear and self-defeating tendencies.   “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  It was into this world that He came.  For you.  For me.

I continue to be rescued by this Immanuel, God with Us.  This God who did not consider equality with God as something to be held onto and used to His own advantage.  Rather, He emptied Himself and became human.  He experienced what we experience – he experienced our reality.  And, in order to save us, He became obedient unto death.

The Christmas hope (Immanuel) is a future hope – for a place where the kingdom of God is actually and fully realized.  Where creation, now broken, will be made anew.  Where the losses, the wounds and the voids will be redeemed, healed and closed.

The Christmas hope (Immanuel) is also a present hope – those who seek God, who come to God through His Son, will be sustained through present sufferings and will know peace and purpose in this life.

So, for grieving widows, abuse survivors, those suffering illness, disease, depression, doubt and fear.

For those who have made bad choices and despair of repairing what has been broken as a result.

For those who have or are experiencing heartbreaking and confusing loss.

For those who were not loved and have a hard layer to try to deaden the pain and insulate from any more pain.

For the widows alone, unable to sleep at night, remembering nights past and the laughter of family filling the house.

For the parents who feel overwhelmed and wonder how to build a family.

For those who feel insignificant …. lost …. alone.

For those who are weary and ready to give up.

For those who worry that the hour is too late for them to return.

This night, and the birth of this Child so long ago is meant to bring the hope of salvation.

He came to bring light to the world.

He is the gift.

May this gift bring you the hope of the realization that you are loved.  The hope that a way to God has been made for you.  That abundant life and abundant living can be found even here and even now.

Merry Christmas.

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Scan 890

Today, 76 years ago, my Dad was born (that’s him in the picture above when he was a teenager/young man).  Sadly, he did not see his 55th birthday, abruptly and unexpectedly taken from us as a result of a heart attack.  This grievous and dreadful event capped an approximately 18-month period when a dear uncle, my precious grandmother and my respected father were all seemingly snatched from our lives leaving us with wounded hearts, fractured faith and voids in our lives.

Growing up, Christmas always represented a time of hope for me.  Year after year, I would ponder and reflect that God showed He is faithful to His promises and to us in the sending of His Son, Immanuel, God with us.  Year after year, I anticipated that life would become more and more fulfilling; that my calling and purpose would be revealed and, with sincere effort, fulfilled; that my loved ones would find and grow in Christ and God the Father.

But as I’ve grown older and witnessed & shared in the pain of dear friends losing children during pregnancy or childbirth; of the unexpected and unexplained loss of family; of the life-changing/world-shrinking effects of Parkinson’s and other diseases; of the immense struggle to adapt to the results of stroke, Alzheimer’s, Lupus, aging – I’ve struggled more and more with belief.  Hope has often seemed a light disappearing from view as I travel farther down “the race set before me.”  And I battle feeling as if my life has been invalidated as the institutions I’ve counted on seem to have declared my accomplishments as inconsequential; my beliefs as ignorant, my faith as unprofitable and counterproductive.  Immanuel?  God with us?  Sometimes, I confess, I have misgivings as to whether that is true…..

But I’m continually brought up by the fact that the evils of this world do not contradict God nor His Son. “In this world you will have trouble,” He told us.  Trouble of my own making and trouble resulting from a world increasingly spurning God and His Son.  We are described as imbued with the dignity of God and yet infected with death, fear and self-defeating tendencies.   “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  It was into this world that He came.  For you.  For me.

I continue to be rescued by this Immanuel, God with Us.  This God who did not consider equality with God as something to be held onto and used to His own advantage.  Rather, He emptied Himself and became human.  He experienced what we experience – he experienced our reality.  And, in order to save us, He became obedient unto death.

The Christmas hope (Immanuel) is a future hope – for a place where the kingdom of God is actually and fully realized.  Where creation, now broken, will be made anew.  Where the losses, the wounds and the voids will be redeemed, healed and closed.

The Christmas hope (Immanuel) is also a present hope – those who seek God, who come to God through His Son, will be sustained through present sufferings and will know peace and purpose in this life.

So, From grieving widows to abuse survivors to those suffering illness, disease, depression, doubt and fear.

For those who have made bad choices and hope to repair what has been broken as a result.

For those who have or are experiencing heartbreaking and confusing loss.

For those who were not loved and have a hard layer to try to deaden the pain and insulate from any more pain.

For the widows alone, unable to sleep at night, remembering nights past and the laughter of family filling the house.

For the parents who feel overwhelmed and wonder how to build a family.

For those who feel insignificant …. lost …. alone.

For those who are weary and ready to give up.

For those who worry that the hour is too late for them to return.

This night, and the birth of this Child so long ago is meant to bring the hope of salvation.

He came to bring light to the world.

He is the gift.

May this gift bring you the hope of the realization that you are loved.  The hope that a way to God has been made for you.  That abundant life and abundant living can be found even here and even now.

Merry Christmas.

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