by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro ©2020
For some, any upcoming Christmas season is hard. Even unwanted. If that resonates with how you feel, these devotions may be for you. From October 22 through January 6th, the intent is to publish a series of devotions from my upcoming book, ONLY JESUS REMAINS. Today is the introduction so you know what it’s about. Tomorrow the first devotion. Take a read. See what you think. SUBSCRIBE to receive daily email updates. Check in often. Watch for updated links to soon-to-come audio versions of these devotions on YouTube and updated links on each devotion for new, original Christmas songs–all of which are to help get you through. You are in my heart and prayers. You are more so in God’s. ~ Elizabeth
What does Christmas look like when it doesn’t look or feel like Christmas? What happens when the trappings of Christmas as you have come to celebrate it are stripped away? When the celebration is not going to be what you have come to expect or made it over the years? What is to be done when your own life has become the sappy story? Except the scenes which would have brought sweet, heart-wrenching tears of sentimentality in a movie, now devastate because these scenes are your current reality.
Does Christmas disappear? (Should it disappear?) Does it stop being? What is Christmas really at its core? What stays the same no matter what?
Christmas is not about the decorations or gifts, songs, events, festive meals or even gatherings. These are part of what we have made of it with all good intentions. But this is not what essential Christmas actually is about.
Christmas is and remains because Jesus was, is and is to come. He was born and that does matter. Infinitely. Thus, the question becomes: what does God want your Christmas to look like and where does He want to take you through it? Especially if your life is hard now in ways you never could have imagined or wished for, and maybe for you even the nature of God has become a question mark because in this moment, His comfort, care, perfect provision and love seem in doubt.
You are not alone. There are many hidden away in nooks and crannies just looking to get through Christmastime—suddenly aware that much you might have thought was so great is mostly empty. What are you to do with this? Do you just put on a happy mask and muddle through for the sake of others? Do you hide yourself away, burying yourself in other things or just wait it out until it is over?
What if in this awful, unwished for place God has a gift for you? One you have to choose to unwrap. Where you might be afraid of what’s inside or initially not have the energy to care at all.
When Christmas doesn’t look like Christmas only Jesus remains. But what does that mean? And how does it help? Or how does this change the fabric of Christmas?
No matter what brought you into this more difficult time, God can birth something new in you which nourishes and feeds you at a deeper level than you even knew possible and gives you gifts. To receive requires remaining honest about your sorrowing and being open to what He wants to provide through it. This is a special time to look at Him in the rawness of your emotions and awareness of barren aspects of existence.
Here is a collection of thoughts, reflections, prayers, Scripture and original Christmas songs for when the more common ways of celebrating are suddenly and perhaps shockingly devoid of meaning. These particular ruminations reflect places God has taken me. They come out of the painful gift of holidays where due to my own life circumstances the only place I could go was into the holiness of it. Holy-days. Holidays no longer. These are not negative reflections, but the raw choice to look upward and let God show me Christmas His way in the midst. Included are also personal prayers and devotions which were initially my very private expressions to Him in our quiet time together. But I have decided to share some because perhaps they will give words to what you are experiencing as well.
Only Jesus Remains does not contain all the answers. Of necessity, it is filled with partial thoughts which will intentionally lead to more question marks. The ponderings make no demands. There are 77 devotions. If you began on October 22 these would carry you one per day through January 6. However, the devotions do not have to be used that way at all. There is no prescribed order or reading formula. Sections are varying lengths. Use what you need now. Employ them any way which helps you. Spirit will lead you, if you let Him.
Read one or a few. Stop. Pause. Reflect. Set it aside. Read the same one or the same sentence over and over until you are ready for another. Themes repeat. You will rub up against some of them again and again. Yet perhaps this is exactly what is needed to remind you to be brave and stay in this place with God, not running so quickly from the uncomfortableness, so that God can take you by the hand and lead you through it. Where He wants you to go. Ruminate. Ponder. Use a journal, notepad, margins, blank pages at the back or an audio file to capture your thoughts. Next year you may use the book in a different way or find you don’t need it at all.
In the void of Christmas stripped from its usual, comfortable clutter and even people who used to make your heart sing, open yourself to God’s revelation of true Christmas essence. Christmas presence. A new and more profound joy through essential God-realization. Stripping off the old to view the new. A Christmas celebration which can include what has been but no longer requires it. A richer Christmas celebration of a completely different sort which does not deny that which has been lost but is no longer bound by the limits and traditions of what has been, so that essential Christmas can be found. Eventually savored. And even enjoyed.
May you have the courage to let the only One who is fully real Love give you the gift of revealing what Christmas is truly about to your aching, questioning heart. Through your gritty honesty with yourself before Him and a jaw set firm by how hard this can be, may you receive from Him the gift of Christmas the way He always intended.
Though mostly drafted during Christmas 2019, the final touches are being put on this book for you as 2020 seasonal fires in Northern California burn away so much of that which was held precious. Sorrowing hearts know. All that glitters was never gold which lasts at all. Once essential Christmas has been found, no one will ever be able to take it from you. It is a pearl of great price. Riches more precious than gold that can never be stolen, rot or fade. Christmas is indeed all about Jesus. And that, my friend, is blessed.
Let us walk together through whatever God would have this season be to you this year. Truly, joyous Christmas. Peace-filled yule. Blessed Christmas days, dear one, which far, far exceed any momentary, put-on merriment.
September 8, 2020
Near the California 1848 gold discovery site, El Dorado County, California, USA
17 [For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him,
18 By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones),
19 And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength,
20 Which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His [own] right hand in the heavenly [places],
21 Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named [above every title that can be conferred], not only in this age and in this world, but also in the age and the world which are to come.
Ephesians 1:17-21 AMPC
Merry Blessed Christmas!
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