“Christmas is really for children, isn’t it?” The casual remark made by a friend wounded me deeply. I had recently miscarried and was told I would never be able to carry a child to term. All month I had struggled to survive emotionally, bombarded hourly with toy advertisements and commercials featuring adorable kids sneaking downstairs in their pajamas. If Christmas was for children, what could it offer me? I had no children, and never would, it seemed.
I wasn’t the only one silently suffering in the season of good cheer. My Bible study leader had recently lost her son to suicide. My neighbor had just buried her mother. And a colleague had passed away unexpectedly, leaving behind a wife and three children. All around, nativity sets were on display. But what we saw there made our hearts burn with grief. We saw a father, a mother, a child…each of us saw what had been lost.
Slowly, we journeyed on during the long, lonely month. Alone and disoriented by grief, we needed rest, but no one seemed to have room us, or for our endless pain, not at this busy time of year. We didn’t know it, but we were journeying to Bethlehem, too.
That season, I was often thinking about the people at the Inn, who had no room for the holy family. Who could turn away a woman in her final month of pregnancy to sleep out of doors? And when her cries of labor began, did their hearts burn with shame?
Maybe not. Indifference is the most comfortable of evils.
When the baby took His first cry, they were, however, probably a little relieved. “See,” they must have thought, “the babe is brought safely into the world, and I have no part to play in that story now.”
(If they had only known!)
So, my friend, when you are hurting at Christmas, never forget this:
Indifference was part of the miracle. God was with us there, in the cold, in the dark.
And so this is what I now believe about Christmas: God’s silence is never to be confused with indifference. He is not indifferent to your suffering. Nor to mine. Let others turn you away, or turn you out, or pretend not to hear your cries… God is near. God is not indifferent. God is at work. If the story is bleak, it’s not over.
Christmas is the fulfillment of a sacred promise made to the whole world, but those who have made the long and weary journey to Bethlehem can rejoice with relief. The aching grief over what should have been becomes the very place He chooses to fully give Himself to us, and welcome us at last to Bethlehem.
Christmas is neither the beginning nor the end of His story of Love, but the miraculous middle. We who travel to this place in the dark of night, find that the miracle in the middle is more than enough to see us safely, and joyfully, on to The End.
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 Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2: 10-11 KJV