Christmas is a very wonderful time of year. For the Christian, it is a celebration in remembrance of God coming in the flesh, our flesh – only without our fatal flaw of sin. His birth cannot be detached from his death. In fact, wisdom puts his birth in mind right next to his death. He is born; our Savior has come.

But this year didn’t feel like Christmas to me very much. I had too much on my mind and have been struggling with many things, both spiritual and physical. These times are different to me; the easy seems to have gone (if it ever really existed in the first place). Wherever I look, there is sin rampant. People have lost their jobs, their homes, there families, and some – their lives.

Has Christmas changed for you? Has Christmas changed in general? Ask yourself. Think about the time with your family. Was it filled with the same joy as you had when you were a child? Have the difficulties in your life circumstances choked out some of the joy that you customarily enjoyed in Christmases past? I don’t know what the answer is for you (1.2 verified readers of this blog), but for me, it was more difficult to focus on the simple joy that we Christians yearn for.

Then there it was. We celebrated Christmas with my family on New Year’s Day this year because we were in Michigan with my wife’s family on December 25th. The cloud was there. Then it was there: in the middle of the room on my mother’s lap, my niece began to recite in song the passage from John: “These words are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. Alleluia. Alleluia.”

These familiar words, which are often sung in the liturgy in my church, nearly brought me to tears. My niece’s parents are going through a difficult stretch and may not continue to be married much longer. She was deprived from oxygen when she was born and now has the physical effects of cerebral palsy. But, she didn’t care when she was sitting on “grammy’s” lap about anything but singing a song of praise to her heavenly Father on the “makeup” family birthday of our Savior.

I wonder if there were any children that visited our Lord on the night he was born. I imagine that there may have been sons and daughters of the shepherds that came and sang songs and gave thanks to our God for the wonder that he has done. It must have been a wonderful site. What I wouldn’t have given to have been a fly on the wall of the stable – or better, the manger bed.

2000 years later we still have a world of chaos and full of sin. Yet, that baby born on the cross who received with deep joy the praises of my niece still has control over the world. It isn’t how we would like it. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out as we planned. Even Christians “wrestle” with the Lord as Jacob did; but they are blessed. They are blessed because they have a baby that turned out to be a man who died on the cross so that he could buy us back. We were sold for nothing, but bought with blood. My niece reminded me that even during the difficult times in life, we have a Savior who was born. We have a Savior who died. We have a Savior who rose; and One that is alive now – close to us, close enough to hear the imperfect praises of the children and adults who can hear his voice through the faith that he gives to us.

It’s all out of our control. But, without a doubt it’s in his. What grace.

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