This Christmas season, preparations and decorations took on a much lesser degree of importance. Many of the usual doings fell by the wayside and left room for learning a deeper meaning of the season. The holidays can become so routine amidst to do lists, dollars spent and places to go, so much emphasis on those things that we miss out on what each new Christmas has to breathe into our lives. This year, I don't think I've ever heard so much bad news. Tragedy always seems to befall this time of year. I don't know if this year really holds any more than other years but maybe it's because it seems so much closer to home, closer to heart. Maybe it's the media available at any touch of a button, or facebook statuses and prayer requests, or maybe it's me. Maybe my eyes are open a little wider; facing the reality rather than my daydreams.
Ironically, or maybe Providential, over the last month we've heard a four part series at Church on the Good News of Christmas. Each week we've heard more bad news. Death, senseless mass violence, young children left without a mother, families planning funerals during the holidays, hurt hearts and bodies behind closed doors. Those doors get flung wide open and we're left in shock and disbelief. Yet is it any shock, did Jesus not come at such a time as Christmas to open the doors, to open our eyes, to open our hearts? To give us what He offers. We see and hear this heart wrenching stuff all year long and yet it cuts so deep at this time. Just when we want respite to see lights all aglow and give glad tidings. Joyce Meyer said last week that in the midst of our affliction is often when our bonds are broken. How many bonds do we cover with false Holiday pretense only to miss out on the real Joy that the Lord brings to the World?
I felt the stronghold of a bond last week that I thought I was well on my way to being done with. Fear. It gripped me and held on for several days and restless nights. It was so easy to turn back to those old fears especially when the world seems a little darker. I read somewhere a while back that when fear is present, faith is absent. Ouch, that hurts. As a child, my mind wrestled with many fears and anxious thoughts, looking back now they were mostly self inflicted and never to become realized in reality. The sad truth is those fears chased me right into adulthood and though I've come a long way in replacing fear with faith it still remains a weak spot. A few weeks ago our Pastor spoke on how many times in the Christmas story the topic of fear comes up and the phrase 'Do not be afraid' is used several times. That was something totally new for me to consider in relation to Christmas but as it became real to me last week the words chimed in amidst my fearful thoughts. Do not be afraid. A few mornings ago I woke to see Hanna next to me. I asked her how she ended up there and in her matter of fact manner told me, "oh Mom, I just had a bad dream so I just laid down next to you and fell asleep again." No tears in the night, no staying a wake in fear. Quite different than how it felt for me as a child. Yesterday evening Hanna's uncle was teasing her about her moving downstairs when baby comes and that she would be to scared to sleep in the basement. She just giggled and said "I won't be scared, I'll have my brother with me!" No big deal. My story was different. I was fourteen and it had probably taken two years to muster the courage to move downstairs and another two years working out my fears while I was down there. Craziness, thinking about that now.
Thankfully as much as I was trying to work away the fear, I was trying much harder to pour out my faith in prayer. I opened my Bible a couple evenings ago looking for a verse on fear and Mark 5:36 jumped out in red. Jesus' words and they are a simple, profound truth: Don't be afraid, just believe. He couldn't have spoke any more clearly to me. To break the bond of fear I would have to simply believe. Believe that at Christmas when hearts ache, shock numbs and grief lingers, that in drawing near to the manger in belief we will be filled with a sense of hope. A hope that overcomes. I realized in my sleeplessness last night that I could learn a lesson through my little girl. She had a frightful dream but believed that to simply slip in quietly next to my side, all would be well. Or what fear could the basement hold, knowing her brother would be by her side. If I slip in quietly next to the Saviour's side with belief, the fear subsides. If I kneel by the manger and think about what a baby brings how can I not be filled with hope. As moms, we hold our newborns and we are filled with the hope of a beautiful future after the going through the affliction of painful childbirth. Jesus came to offer us that hope, to open the doors and help us walk through this painful world with belief. That His perfect love will cast out our fears.
I know bad news will keep on coming, it's inevitable. The good news within myself is seeking and learning to overcome the bad news. One of best gifts I received this Christmas was Mark 5: 36 and a prayer of hope. The best gift from my hubby is the way he challenges me think beyond my doubts and fears. I love him for the way he sets aside concerns and pulls in next to the children, whether its rebuilding Lego with his nephew, doing a Dollarama Christmas tree craft with Hanna or taking over my tearful troubles with Jake in the night when he has to get up in a few short hours. I learn so many lessons through him and our children. They are God's best gifts for me. I can't even begin to offer Him enough thanks in return. Drawing to His side, we have spent meaningful days with family around the table, sharing memories and food, playing with our children and laughing with them. Hanna said it was her bestest Christmas ever.
Mark 5:6 ... Don't be afraid, just believe.