A Whole Heart for Christmas (and other unexpected blessings)
Let’s face it, Christmas can be disconcerting, even for the committed Christian. Memories of good times and bad, personal victories and losses, unmet expectations and dashed dreams, can leave us feeling isolated, overlooked or just plain sad at Christmas time. Whether you find yourself suddenly single through bereavement or divorce, are in need of work, hoping for healing, overwhelmed by busyness or struggling to find your purpose again after some other unplanned life-transition; Christmas can be particularly painful. The past several years of my life had been that way. I had found myself facing major life changes and unexpected moves. Life doesn’t always go according to our ‘plan.’ During that time, Christmas had been a season to ‘get through’, almost as an afterthought, and it was tough. Bittersweet, truth be told.
This year, however, has been different. It has been a year of resting and regrouping, after a lot of change. 2018 has been a great year and a healing year. Through my faith in Jesus Christ, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, I have experienced that transformative journey through grief and loss to wholeness. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still a work in progress (always will be) but I’ve done the ‘work’ of grief, have gotten expert advice and much prayer. I’ve also chosen to trust God when I didn’t understand the seeming lack of ‘answered prayer’ and so on. God’s Word has been my steady diet on this journey, particularly as it relates to the God-kind of healing (from the inside out). I’d seen glimpses of my inner-healing along the way, experienced God’s ever-present peace, even in the worst of times. But, one day a couple of months ago, it just ‘happened.’ I just ‘knew.’ I felt like the me that I hadn’t been in a very, very long time. Actually, I felt even better than before.
Isiah 53:5 (NLT)
…He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
So it was some weeks ago, as I was reflecting on the goodness of God, thanking Him specifically for how He had brought me through a very difficult season of life. To be honest, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. That has happened a lot lately. A notion occurred to me that it would be fun to attend a Christmas concert, something I haven’t done in ages. Fun hasn’t been high on the priority list until now. I pondered the idea, but in the busyness of everyday life, hadn’t had the time to check into many options. One of the concerts I had wanted to attend, Handel’s Messiah, had been sold out. That one will have to wait for next year, I’m afraid. In any case, I never mentioned my desire to attend a Christmas concert to anyone (except in musing on the thought before God), until last Saturday morning. I casually mentioned it to my younger daughter in passing as we made our morning coffee. Moments later, as I sat reading my Bible and sipping a cup of coffee, my phone rang.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
It was rather early, but to my surprise, my friend Valarie asked me if I happened to be available to attend a Christmas concert the following day. She explained that she had felt specifically led, in prayer, to purchase two tickets to a Christmas concert and that she had felt an inner-prompting to pray about whom to invite. She’s been in a challenging season herself, and it was the last thing she ‘felt’ like doing. However, she really sensed that it was an impression given by the Holy Spirit so she obeyed. She prayed specifically about whom to bless with a ticket, and chose me. What fun! I happened to be available the next afternoon, and said I’d be thrilled to join her.
We met the next day, and while driving together to the concert, Valarie and I had time to catch up on life. We then had the pleasure of attending the Christmas concert of a very talented pianist; Lorie Line. The show was refreshingly and pointedly, focused on the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In a world of secularized, ‘Happy Holiday’ greetings, she brought her audience back to the purity of Christmas. She shared a bit of her own spiritual journey, and how God had awakened her recently to the fact that her gift of playing the piano was given by Him and for His glory. As I, listened, I was strangely warmed. Astoundingly, her faith story mimicked the conversation that Valarie and I had while driving to the concert! Our topic of conversation had been spiritual gifts and callings. It was no coincidence. As Lorie shared, Valarie and I turned to each other, with our eyes wide open and I exclaimed, “THAT was astounding!” We were amazed at how the pianist’s testimony and our conversation were nearly identical. God was clearly speaking to us both! Truly, it was a divine appointment that only God could have arranged.
Proverbs 17:17 (NLT)
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
Not being aware of any of this, a couple of days later, my friend Martha called out of the blue. She explained that she, her husband and daughter were attending a concert and invited me to join them to hear the Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge Choir, along with Christian recording artist Jason Gray. Again, I was gifted with tickets to a wonderful event! Nothing could have been better, from my perspective! I have had the pleasure of serving as a substitute Bible teacher at MNTC in the past, and love the hope they bring through their faith-based addiction-recovery program. The concert was wonderful. Hearing testimonies of God’s healing power and the fantastic worship, while in the company of dear friends was truly a gift from God. I reflected back to several years ago, when in the throes of the most difficult stages of grief, Martha was there for me. Her patient listening ear, powerful prayers and wise advice were so important. As we sat listening to the concert, I silently thanked God for this heaven-sent friend.She had been ‘present’ for me in a time of need.
Just a week later, both of my daughters and I also enjoyed attending a Christmas festival of lights at the local landscape Arboretum with Martha’s family as well. It was lovely and so much fun. It really meant a lot to us to spend time together with friends in a fun, family activity. Again, I thanked God for the unexpected blessing of time spent with this dear family.
Unexpected, unplanned time spent with dear friends has made this a Christmas season of unexpected blessings in 2018. I’m grateful for big things like God’s faithfulness to bring me through a season of loss to a season of rest, inner-healing and wholeness. I’m also grateful for smaller things, like God caring enough to answer the desire of my heart to see a Christmas concert (times two) and to spend time with friends. But, most of all, I’m grateful for the gift of Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas. It’s Jesus that brings hope, healing and wholeness and unexpected blessings to hurting hearts.
How about you? Are you in a season of grief, drastic change, loss, transition or uncertainty? My prayer is that you will trust God to bring you through those unexpected challenges, renew your hope, bring you unexpected blessings and make you whole again.
MERRY CHRISTMAS from A Samaritan Woman Speaks at http://janetdecaster.com