A collection of past contributions…
As I sit here writing this article I see the first sunshine I’ve seen in many days. It’s very refreshing. There are places in the world where there is no sunshine for extended periods of time. Places like Thule, Greenland, where the sun is up for three months in the summer and is nowhere to be seen for the other nine. Thule’s beautiful sunset lasts for weeks as the sun travels lower and lower around the horizon, but many find the nine months of darkness that follows difficult. Depression becomes an issue. Some people try to deal with the darkness resorting to alcohol to dull the sense of hopelessness that extended darkness creates. Full spectrum lighting can sometimes help. Physical activity can also help. But nothing replaces the encouragement of real sunshine.
There are other kinds of refreshing sunshine we all need in our lives as well.
Not the Sol-type, but the soul-type. Real sunshine for the soul. We all deal with times of discouraging, extended darkness. Times when we can’t see the light at the end of this tunnel we’re traveling though right now. Times when even the full spectrum lighting of positive-thinking can’t replace the real thing. We need real reason for hope – real soulshine.
When the sun is missing we need to look to the Son – The faithful Son of God who promised to never leave us or forsake us through all of our dark times. He’s there when the sun shines and He’s there when it doesn’t.
Unfortunately the only way we find His sufficiency in the dark times is to actually have those dark times. Jesus was “…led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 4:1), but He was helped by angels when He was there (Matthew 4:11). He made it through. He will lead us through too.
Image courtesy of Joe LeFevre, www.joelefevrephoto.com
Work sometimes gets in the way of life. When we are called on to work the night shift either because the shift rotation has fallen out that way, or because someone with seniority over us has dibs on Christmas Eve time off, here we are, forced to be away from our family again. This doesn’t seem right. Sometimes the extra pay isn’t worth it. Besides, our work conditions aren’t very healthy. It gets pretty cold at night at work sometimes.
Yet someone has to watch the sheep. At least that’s what we’re told. The sheep. Always the sheep. Like sheep are more important than we are! These sheep are meant for slaughter anyway. Well, maybe they are kind of important. After all, they are the ones that will be used for the Temple sacrifices. Even for the Day of Atonement celebration. Someday a Deliverer will come and every day will be a Day of Atonement – a day when the Messiah, Immanuel, will have His rightful place over all of this.
I wonder what the other shepherds are thinking? It’s so quiet tonight. The stars are beautiful. God made them, I know. But sometimes God seems so far away just like those stars. Sometimes I just wish He would come close.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
I was reminded again, as I listened to a radio program about special Christmas memories, that profound sadness accompanies the Christmas holidays for many people. That’s understandable. Losses of loved ones around that season would naturally taint the celebrations as can the loneliness of realizing anew the sad reality of people missing that have been so much a part of our lives in the past. Christmas can be very hard.
We should be sensitive to that among those we know who may be suffering this way. Perhaps we can offer some loving context in sharing our Christmases with the sad and lonely. Joining us in family dinners, especially if children are present, can brighten otherwise dreary days and provide opportunity for them to direct their attention outwardly during this bright season. “Adopting” a grandparent for some special local holiday entertainment can also help them to see past their sorrow and to embrace a future with expanded horizons.
We expect immature children (or immature adults) to identify their most memorable Christmas as the time they got some sort of “stuff’, a big screen TV for their bedroom, a drone, or some latest electronic game. While marketers love that mentality, any thinking or feeling person sees beyond that fluff. Christmas, in the original “Immanuel” – “God-with-us” form, always has been about relationships. It’s about God’s relationship with us and about our resulting relationships with each other. The real “stuff” of Christmas is, of course, John 3:16, which many know by heart: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The bottom line is God’s inclusive love for us and about His gift. We can keep in touch with Christmas by sharing that inclusive love in the name of Jesus, by finding someone who needs some love this season and including them in our lives.