by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro copyright 2020
Oct 22 to Jan 6 reflections from an upcoming book for tending hurting hearts at Christmas
The Christmas celebration mysteriously marks the gate to the darkest, coldest, hardest times of year where I live. Hard times are normal. They always have been. It is another false societal construct that there is something wrong with you or your prayers if times are hard. That you are somehow less blessed or even less loved by God, that your prayers are somehow unheard, or worse yet that you are being punished.
Jesus came into obscurity. What God “blessed” Him with was poverty and a leadership who would have him murdered. There was no position of honor for Him. It is myth that a God-following life results in a “blessed” life as you might define it.
Instead, there is blessing in the hardship. It is precisely into these hard spaces God comes closest, though at first you may not feel it. He is, after all, invisible. However, He does draw nearer. He does begin to teach you more about Himself and give you deeper encounter because you are ready for it. Your heart is more open and your mind less distracted. For it is in your pain often you will recognize more the need to comprehend God and no longer in trite, superficial ways. And it is true. In the deeper comprehension is solace.
Additionally, in times like these you recognize more fiercely that you are hungry. It is an inner hunger that must be satiated. There is a need to know God because perhaps then you would begin to understand. If you understood more, the pain would lessen. Relief would come.
Each person has his or her own expectations of what Christmas is—of what you hope it will be. What are the ones to which you have clung, which are less than Christ and therefore hurt you now? What have you thought Christmas was supposed to look like that now cannot be?
These expectations need to be laid down before Him as you seek to visit fully with the Christ Child, behold the Gift, revel in His glory and receive comfort from His own hard journey.
The promise of the first Christmas was never grand get-togethers and feeling loved by the people around you. It was not to conjure up moments of human-sourced happiness. This is what culture has made of it. If you cannot have what you wanted or hoped for this Christmas, what are you hungry for? (The spiritual appetite is there even though at the moment you may have disconnected yourself from it.)
Into life’s winter cold the real Jesus comes like a fire warming a room. Like a roof over your head in this storm. Ultimately, He is the warm hug which never lets go. He comes to apply healing salve to your inner wounds. Look to Him. Listen for Him, then listen to Him. Only He can satisfy that relentlessly gnawing inner hunger.
Lord, here I am here. before You in faith. I don’t quite know how to do this. Not really. To focus on You instead of uttering an the incessant litany of please, please, help, help thoughts which race through my mind and now get poured out before You as prayer requests. You are such a great listener. I know You hear these and want to answer them because You love me and love them, but You are now calling me to something more and I’m not sure what this is to be like. Holy Spirit, come into the cold, dark spaces of my heart where there is a stabbing hunger and feed me. I need real food. Something which sustains because that which I thought was nourishing my soul has become as junk. My heart is ready. Please Lord, I long to encounter You in a deeper way.
7 And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn.
27 Stop toiling and doing and producing for the food that perishes and decomposes [in the using], but strive and work and produce rather for the [lasting] food which endures [continually] unto life eternal; the Son of Man will give (furnish) you that, for God the Father has authorized and certified Him and put His seal of endorsement upon Him…
35 Jesus replied, I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never be hungry, and he who believes in and cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me will never thirst any more (at any time)….
37 All whom My Father gives (entrusts) to Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me].
38 For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will and purpose but to do the will and purpose of Him Who sent Me.
39 And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that I should not lose any of all that He has given Me, but that I should give new life and raise [them all] up at the last day.
40 For this is My Father’s will and His purpose, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in and cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up [from the dead] at the last day.
John 6:27, 35, 37-40
SONG Recommended: A Baby’s Cry – Christmas Worship album
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