The presents are all unwrapped (at least all those that came in time—sorry, Sis—yours will be there soon!); the wrapping paper sits in garbage bags, waiting for that last go-through just in case some small trinket got thrown away; the tree is starting to drop its needles; and all the radio stations have switched to normal broadcasting. Christmas is over.
Or is it?
The real story went on for much longer than one day… longer than a week…or even a month, a year, a decade. It affects us for life…. In fact, life eternal…
So… In celebrating, here is the first of two Christmas posts: this one, a reprint of my original column in Fountain of Life’s “Family Time” (Oct-Dec, 2014) I pray that perhaps it might touch your heart where it needs Joy…
Two women: an old one, a young. One barren, one unmarried. Neither expecting to have a baby.
At least not now…
Maybe a few decades ago…Or after the vows had been exchanged… But not now!
And yet, they both were.
Both could have been divorced. One, before she became pregnant—because by Jewish Talmud law, if you could not provide an heir for your husband, he could divorce you. The other, after. Again, she was pregnant out of wedlock. In fact, most would have wanted her stoned.
But both of their men were honorable: the one, praying for his wife; the other, marrying the woman who was carrying someone else’s baby.
And these two women, or rather, the babies they were carrying, would change the world! The one, preparing the way. The other? Well, He was the way!
And the truth. And the life.
We aren’t told how others treated these two women throughout their pregnancies—an elderly woman, much too old to be bearing a child; a young woman whose pregnancy and wedding dates didn’t add up—We’re just told that they themselves trusted God and celebrated the miracles.
- Elisabeth, the elder: “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people” (Luke 1:25).
- Her cousin Mary, the younger,…did they believe she was still a virgin? That the conception was a miracle? Either way, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) and “My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant” (vv.46-48a).
We DO know that after the babies were born, others rejoiced: neighbors and relatives for the one, shepherds and wisemen for the other.
But not everyone.
Within two years of the second birth, jealousy rotted a man’s heart. And just as prophesied, “a voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children…” (Mt 2:18). A town wailed for its lost babies.
Joy into Mourning… Have you known that kind of pain? So excited, then hopelessly helpless.
For me, it was the day I lost a baby…a passing…from a life never known.
I know I’m not alone. There are other Rachels out there, weeping for children that “are no more.” And during holidays? Well, I’ve experienced the sweetness of being pregnant on the day we celebrate Christ’s birth. As high as that is, the loss is the opposite. And you weep with those Bethlehem mothers, wondering how the world could be so evil. And if there is any relief from the pain.
And then I remember. As He has shown me many times, while the Lord allows the walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is always with me. The day I lost my baby was no different…
I lay on the couch, knowing something wasn’t right, praying my greatest fears were wrong. My 4-yr-old daughter climbed next to me with a Bible. “Read to me, Mommy.” I almost waved her away, the pain severe, but something stopped me; I reached for the page she held: John 14.
“Let not your heart be troubled; You believe in God, believe also in Me… [The Father] will give you a Comforter…I give you My peace…Don’t let your heart be afraid…”
The second I finished the chapter, my pregnancy ended.
But through the hours, minutes, and days that followed, the words ran continually through my mind. “Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid…Believe in Me!” Whispered words of comfort and truth…
And then similar words came to mind: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy…” (Luke 2:10). The young woman’s miracle, consoling the lowest of the low on the hillsides of Bethlehem. After the shepherds saw this new infant King, they ran back, “glorifying and praising God for all they’d seen and heard” (v.20). Did the words run through their minds a few months later when they saw their own sons killed? The young mother treasured the words in her heart. Did she recall them 33 years later when that same son hung on the cross?
The older one’s child? Luke 1:66: “all who heard [these matters] kept them in mind, saying, ‘What then will this child be?’ For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.” If Elisabeth were still alive when he grew up, would the words have comforted her as she watched her only son thrown in prison and beheaded as the prophet of the Most High (1:76)?
Elisabeth weeping for her son. Mary weeping for hers.
Then mourning became Joy because Joy came in the morning! Resurrection! The women came to the tomb early, preparing to let Jesus go forever. For closure. Instead, the tomb was wide open. And their tears of horror [“They have taken away my Lord.” (John 20:13)] became tears of Joy [“He has risen!” (Luke 24:6) “Rabboni! Teacher!”]
They say more people die around Christmas than any other time of year. That it’s the worst time for depression, for loneliness. Is it because we have forgotten what the whole story of Christmas is about? We’ve made it about lights and gifts. About friends and family. From the very beginning, Christmas has been a time of miracles. A time of Joy. But it also comes with a recognition of pain. The pain that this life—marred by sin—brings. The very reason we needed the “good news and great joy” in the first place.
It’s not just a miracle in two women’s bodies, but a miracle in all of us. That we could be changed from within because He came to dwell with us. Bringing a peace that came from His fighting a war. A war against mourning and sin and death.
Because in the miracle of Christmas—when an old woman and a virgin bore babies—the BIGGEST miracle was God coming to bring us Good news of Great Joy that is for all people!
So lost babies? Lost loved ones? Just lost in the unexpected of life? “Let not your heart be troubled; I give you My peace. Believe in Me…” The words DO comfort because The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Son—born in a stable to die for us—rose in our mourning, shining Light in our darkness. Immanuel. God with us. Rejoice in the miracle. For He is Come!