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Illustration of John 3:16

Article by Nancy Guthrie

But for those who’ve recently lost someone they love, the holidays can seem more like something to survive than to enjoy. The traditions and events that can add so much joy and meaning to the season are punctuated with painful reminders of the person we love who is not here to share in it. Many have wished they could find a quiet place to hide until January 2.

While those of us who surround grieving people can’t fix the pain of loss, we can bring comfort as we come alongside those who hurt with special sensitivity to what grief is like during the holidays. Grieving people wish we all knew at least five truths, among others, at Christmas.

1. Even the best times are punctuated with an awareness that someone is missing.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend as we prepared to head out on a holiday trip shortly after our daughter, Hope, died. “That should be fun!” she said. I sensed I was supposed to agree wholeheartedly with her.

What I didn’t know how to explain is that when you’ve lost a member of your family, even the best of times are painfully incomplete. Someone is missing. Even the best days and happiest events are tinged with sadness. Wherever you go, the sadness goes with you.

2. Social situations are hard.

I have never been able to figure out why crowds are difficult when you’re grieving, but they are. Small talk can be unbearable when something so significant has happened. Meeting new people will likely bring questions about family. To walk alone into a room full of couples when your spouse has died, or into an event filled with children when your child has died, can be a soul-crushing reminder of what you have lost.

If you’ve invited someone in the midst of grief to your holiday event, let them know that you understand if it seems too hard at the last minute and they have to cancel, or that they may only be able to stay for a short time.

If you’re going to an event, give a grieving person a call and ask if you can pick her up and stick with her throughout the event for support. When you come upon a grieving person at a holiday social event, let him know that you are still thinking about the person he loves who has died, and invite him to talk about his memories with that person. Don’t be afraid to say the name of the person who has died. It will be a balm to the grieving person’s soul.

3. Extended family can be awkward and uneasy.

Grief is often awkward — even, and perhaps especially, with those to whom we’re closest.

My husband and I host weekend retreats for couples that have lost children, and the difficulty of being with family at the holidays is often a topic of conversation among these couples. They know that some family members think they’ve grieved long enough and want them to move on. Others want to initiate a conversation about the person who died but aren’t sure how. What often happens is that the name of the person who died is never mentioned, and it feels to the person who is grieving that they have been erased from the family.

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I Wonder Lord
(a prayer poem for Christmas Eve)

I wonder Lord what the world would feel like
Before you came to earth.
Before the dawn of love reborn,
Before the promise of the baby of light!

I wonder did the shepherds feel
The absence of your grace?
Before forgiveness came in a manger,
Before your mercy was laid in the hay.

I wonder how desperate were the hearts
Of those Kings who searched for truth?
Before all wisdom was born that night,
Before the dawning of a Saviour bright.

I wonder just how Joseph felt,
What a heavy burden he bore.
Before the promises of a beautiful boy,
Before he held the miracle child.

I wonder whether Mary was
The first to feel new things,
Before the birth of Jesus,
Before she carried the Kingdom within.

I wonder this on Christmas eve
Before the dawn of day.
Before the celebrations
Before my Lord’s birthday.

“Dear Lord, don’t let us miss You this Christmas season. Help us to simplify our activities and traditions so we can focus our celebration on Your birth. Thank You for being the Prince of Peace, and I ask You for that supernatural peace to reign in our hearts. Thank You for the simple but life-changing message of Your love for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

~ Melanie Chitwood

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Christmas gift giving can, and should, be a wonderful experience — but too often it’s full of relational complexities instead of wonder. We all would want love to be the motivation behind our gifts, but if we’re honest, other motivations often muddy the waters.

Like other people’s expectations, for example. We often give gifts because we fear disappointing or offending others. We can feel obligated to give certain people a certain number of gifts at or above a certain financial threshold. Motivations like these distort Christmas gifts into appeasement offerings.

And then, of course, we have our own expectations. The kind and quantity of gifts we give others and expect from others can have more to do with us than them. Maybe we use gifts to recapture nostalgic Christmas experiences of our past, or to pursue ideal experiences we feel we’ve missed out on. Or maybe our gift exchanges have more to do with generational traditions than the real people we’re giving to. Or maybe we errantly believe our value and others’ value correspond to the expense or quantity of gifts we give and receive.

These motivational currents make for muddy Christmas waters, and they are strong in our culture. The powerful American Christmas economy is, I suspect, driven more by fear, obligation, manipulation, and personal preference than good will toward men.

To whatever degree this is true for us, it need not remain true for us. Change is possible, even this year. Gifts can once again become wonderful. For God has shown us a more excellent way.

God Shows Us How to Give Gifts

That more excellent way is found in the most famous verse in the Bible: “God so loved the world, that he gave . . . ” (John 3:16). Stop there and linger for a moment. God so loved that he gave. God is revealing something profound here. What’s the connection between love and giving? It is the very nature of love to give. And since God is love, it is the very nature of God to give (1 John 4:8). Love expressed is love given. Love given is true gift.

Now let’s complete that most famous verse: “ . . . that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If love expressed is love given, supreme love expressed is supreme love given. If love given is true gift, supreme love given is the greatest of all true gifts.

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“It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the most profound unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. God became man; Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the incarnation.”

~ J. I. Packer

Bob Patton, M.D., D.D.

Ebook and webs resources for you from a missionary statesman, professor, church planter, translator, radio & TV producer

How Can a Virgin Bear a Son?

Luke 1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

Mary was chosen by God and blessed by Him

Mary was an extraordinary woman, worthy of our study and respect. I do not believe that Mary was the “mother of God,” nor born without sin, nor a perpetual virgin, nor taken to heaven without dying, nor that she can redeem us from our sins, because the Bible, God’s infallible word, does not teach these things. In fact, Mary needed a savior from sin, and praised the Lord for His provision: Luke 1:46-47 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. But Mary was a unique woman, chosen by God for the virgin birth predicted 700 years earlier, when the prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 7 verse 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Mary was specially chosen by God. Luke 1:28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Note that she was not favored ABOVE women, but AMONG women. We too can be blessed of the Lord when the Lord is with us, and indeed, when we receive Jesus Christ as savior, He is not only WITH us but also living IN us.

Mary was blessed. She had held herself pure as a virgin. Moreover, she willingly submitted to the Lord.

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Justin Taylor

December 24, 2015

Each Christmas we hear the words from Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

Wait—“Everlasting Father”? Isn’t he the “child . . . born,” the “son . . . given”? Isn’t he the Son of Man and the Son of God? Isn’t it God the Father who is, well, God the Father?

My pastor at New Covenant Bible Church, David Sunday, preached on this a couple of weeks ago, and TGC has published an article-version at their site.

Here’s how he begins:

Few words in any language evoke the kind of feelings we have when we hear the word father. Some of us will feel a sense of loss this Christmas season, either because we had fathers who were wonderful but are no longer with us, or because we have unfulfilled longings for the kind of father we’ve never had.

How comforting, then, to read of the birth of a child whose name shall be called “Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). Under his care, his protection, and his provision, we are safe and will be satisfied for all eternity.

Of all the names attributed to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6, Everlasting Father intrigues me the most because it’s the one I understand the least. How can Jesus the Messiah, the second person of the Godhead, be called Everlasting Father?

And here are three of his key points:

  1. Isaiah is not confusing Jesus the Messiah with the first person of the Trinity.
  2. Isaiah is highlighting the divine nature of the Messiah.
  3. Jesus the Messiah is the only one who can reveal God’s fatherly character to us, for he is one in nature and essence with the Father.

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“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”

~ Luke 2:11

Christmas and the Incarnation

As we celebrate Christmas, let’s tune into this classic Chuck Colson BreakPoint commentary on the manger, and how we often forget the staggering implications of Christmas.

Chuck Colson
What image does the mention of Christmas typically conjure up? For most of us, it’s a babe lying in a manger while Mary and Joseph, angels, and assorted animals look on.

Heartwarming picture, but Christmas is about far more than a Child’s birth—even the Savior’s birth. It’s about the Incarnation: God Himself, Creator of heaven and earth, invading planet Earth, becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

It’s a staggering thought. Think of it: The Word—that is, Logos in the Greek, which meant all  knowledge that could be known, the plan of creation—that is, ultimate reality, becomes mere man? And that He was not born of an earthly king and queen, but of a virgin of a backwater village named Nazareth? Certainly God delights in confounding worldly wisdom and human expectations.

Thirty years after His humble birth, Jesus increased the Jews’ befuddlement when He read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives…to set free those who are downtrodden…” Jesus then turned the scroll back and announced, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

In effect, the carpenter’s son had just announced He was the King.

So yes, the birth of Jesus is a glorious moment, and the manger scene brings comfort and joy and Christmas cheer. But it should also inspire a holy terror in us—that this baby is God incarnate, the King who came to set captives free, through His violent, bloody death on the cross as atonement for us, His unworthy subjects.

It’s through the Incarnation God sets His grand plan in motion. He invades planet Earth, establishing His reign through Christ’s earthly ministry. And then Christ leaves behind an occupying force, His Church, which is to carry on the work of redemption until His return and the kingdom’s final triumph.

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