Sunday, April 20, 2008

Birth And Death At The OK Corral...I Mean Christmas [12/21/07]

My wife just lost a dear friend to cancer who she had worked with for a number of years. She died yesterday. It's sort of surreal because she knew my wife was a Christian, but would never talk to her about anything closely related to faith. You always wonder if some people are afraid of being confronted with "religion" or God. Anyway, my wife recently had an open door to talk with her about God, but didn't realize it until after the conversation had passed. She said she regretted it a little, but didn't feel terrible about missing out on the opportunity. The thought didn't come to her until later, you know? Her friend battled until the end. She had a sarcastic sense of humor and enjoyed her life, though apart from God. Only God knows if she came to know him in the end.

I got to thinking about Christmas. Though pretty much most of the free speaking world tries to have the "perfect" Christmas, there is always something that puts a wrench in things for a lot of people. There is unnecessary stress over the right gifts, giving and receiving, family issues, depression, and loneliness for some. It can be a downright awful time of year for many.

Death pays no respect to timing. People die. It is a fact. We are born, live lives for however long God deems, and die and are buried under six feet of earth. It is harsh for many when death comes knocking.

Christians seem to have an upper hand in this holiday that was never meant to be a holiday. A celebration, yes. Because of a baby boy born over 2,000 years ago, our hope came for redemption of mankind.

Christians are not exempt, in this day and age, from trying to have a perfect Christmas either. We seem to all get caught up in it. The problem is the whole shopping experience and pressure of it all has created a downward spiral of pomp and circumstance materialism. It is a horse and pony show that is not becoming to a coming Messiah.

I was just reading Our Daily Bread the other day about a real Christmas. The writer shared something from his church's devotional guide that I am going to share with you. It caused me to rethink things.

"Let us at all costs avoid the temptation to make our Christmas worship a withdrawal from the stress and sorrow of life into a realm of unreal beauty. It was into the real world that Christ came, into the city where there was no room for Him, and into a country where Herod, the murderer of innocents, was king.

He comes to us, not to shield us from the harshness of the world, but to give us the courage and strength to bear it; not to snatch us away by some miracle from the conflict of life, but to give us peace--His peace--in our hearts, by which we may be calmly steadfast while the conflict rages, and be able to bring the torn world the healing that is peace."

For a number of years, God has given my heart comfort in "the peace that passes all understanding." I believe in a Sovereign God who is in control, whether we want to believe it or not, of life and death. I handle change, death, untold circumstances, and grief like others. It is hard to take. However, the one thing that guides me out of my funk is the peace that comes in the middle or near the end of conflict. This is one way I know God still loves me, in spite of myself.

As I grow older, I am sure to see more death of family and friends. God brings courage and strength to eventually move on for those who want His love. He brings peace that makes no sense whatsoever. I just know it will come.

As I have reflected here, I have no idea who reads this. I do pray that if you stumble upon this blog, that God speaks to your heart and that peace flows into your life as the conflicts rage.

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