The Light Shines on a Dark Christmas
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. Isaiah 9:2 NLT
Have you ever tried to celebrate Christmas while you were going through a painful season of life? Perhaps things were so dark you literally felt like you were under the shadow of death? In Corrie Ten Boom’s book, Corrie’s Christmas Memories, she recalls a Christmas she spent in Ravensbruck, a concentration camp she was sent to for helping hide Jews during World War II. Her sister, Betsie, had died only 11 days earlier. The day after Betsie passed, Corrie discovered she was released. In order to leave, though, Corrie needed a declaration of health from the camp doctor. Unfortunately, the doctor diagnosed her with edema, and he sent her to recover in the hospital barracks. Corrie describes that agonizing Christmas:
Dark it was in my heart, and darkness was around me… I tried to talk to the people around me about Christmas, but they mocked, ridiculed, and sneered at whatever I said.
In the middle of that lonely Christmas night, Corrie recalled hearing a “feeble-minded” girl in a bed near her calling out, “Mommy! Come to Oelie. Oelie feels so alone.” Knowing the girl’s mother could not go to Oelie, Corrie got up from her bed to comfort her. As a dim light shined through the window next to Oelie’s bed, Corrie could see that even though the girl was reduced to skin and bones, she still had a “sweet face, beautiful eyes and wavy hair.” Recovering from an operation, the incision on Oelie’s back was covered in nothing but a makeshift bandage of toilet paper. Corrie recalls what happened next:
That night I told this poor child about Jesus. How He came into the world as a little baby—how He came to save us from our sins.
“The Lord Jesus loves Oelie and has borne her punishment on the cross. Now Oelie may go to heaven, and Jesus is there right now. He is getting a little house ready for Oelie.” Later I asked her what she remembered of what I told her.
“What is the little house like?” I asked.
“It is very beautiful. There are no wicked people as in Ravensbruck—only good people and angels. And Oelie will see Jesus there.”
The child added, “I will ask Jesus to make me brave when I have pain. I will think of the pain that Jesus suffered to show Oelie the way to heaven.” Then Oelie folded her hands; together we gave thanks.
Then I knew why I had to spend this Christmas in Ravensbruck in 1944.
(excerpts from Corrie’s Christmas Memories, chapter 4, pages 56-57)
Jesus said, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark” (John 12:46). I love how Jesus met Corrie and Oelie in the hospital barracks of Ravensbruck, bringing love and light to one of the most horrific death camps in Germany.
If you are facing gloom, despair or darkness this Christmas, take heart. Just as Corrie found purpose in her pain, you can also ask Jesus, the “great light” of Christmas, to bring beauty and hope into your circumstances.
The Essential Message of Christmas
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ ” —Matthew 1:23
At this time of the year, we say, “Merry Christmas.” I prefer that to “Happy Holidays,” but I don’t get confrontational about it. Instead, I want to be gracious. After all, Christmas isn’t always a happy time for everyone. For someone who has lost their job, this is not the most wonderful time of the year, because so much emphasis is placed on a merry Christmas being a materialistic one.
There are also those who have lost loved ones. I am one of those people, and things that once made me happy at this time of year now make me sad. Those things that once brought happiness are now things that bring sadness, because they evoke memories of times we spent together. Therefore, Christmas becomes a difficult time for some.
There are many who are in need of encouragement at this time of year. They don’t need a Christmas present; they need His Christmas presence. They need to be reminded of what this season is all about. It is not about things. It is not about presents.
These things have their place, but we need to remember the essential message of Christmas, which is Immanuel—God is with us. And for the hurting person, the lonely person, the sorrowing person, this is the time of year to bring the gift of encouragement to them and say, “The message of Christmas is: God will be with you. God will help you. God will strengthen you.”
So look for opportunities to share the love of God during this season, because it is a time when we seem to be more open to engaging in conversation with others. Now is a great opportunity for you to bring encouragement to someone who is struggling. Who needs your encouragement today?
I Am the Way –
By: Emma Danzey, crosswalk.com
John 14:5-6 says, “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
I have heard John 14:6 many times in my life and loved it, but never really pondered much about what was asked in the previous verse 5. Today as we look at Jesus as the Way, may we not forget the need for redemption, the need for direction, and the need for knowing how to be reunited with the Father through Jesus.
“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’”
Thomas has some high and low moments, like anyone in the Scriptures. He, unfortunately, got the title “Doubting Thomas” from the church because of his lack of faith in some scenarios; however, in this passage, even in his questioning, it leads to a wonderful answer. Thomas poses the question to Jesus, how can they know the way when they do not know where He is going? This is a valid question. Although Jesus was essentially telling them, He spoke in a way in which the disciples did not understand quite yet.
It is important for us to see that Jesus invites our questions. He is not unhappy with us just because we come to him with uncertainty. He welcomes us to Himself to provide the answers that we need. Sometimes those answers are unclear in the moment to us, but as we live and follow Christ, they became more clear. God could have explained to us many times part of His will, but without His Holy Spirit, we have no understanding of the spiritual. Thankfully, we have been given this gift as believers on this side of the resurrection. The disciples in this passage had yet to experience the Holy Spirit’s power and revelation in their lives.
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’
I love this because Jesus answers point-blank. He does not speak in a parable or in some hidden form; He tells Thomas that He is the way, He is the truth, He is the life. When Thomas and the other followers of Jesus were looking for a way to the Father, Jesus told them that He would be the way. He was telling them that He would be the way to eternal life.
This is such a beautiful gift. Still, to this day, we do not have to wonder how to be forgiven for our sins or how to receive eternal life in heaven with God. Jesus has told us plainly in John 14:6.
“No one comes to the Father except through me.”
When people ask the question of how to get to heaven, John 14:5-6 is a great place to take them. In a world that tries to say, “All paths lead to the same place” or “your truth is your truth,” we have to pray and share the reality that if Jesus is the Savior of this world, He has made it clear that no one can come to Heaven and be with the Father except through Him. This is good news. Before Jesus, there was no hope and no way to have eternal life except the future hope of a Messiah and animal sacrifices to reveal faith for what was to come and cover sins. Now, we have confidence and peace that we can be sealed forever as His children.