It was my worst Christmas. Our missionary family had been invited to stay in a swanky mansion in bitterly-cold northeast China while the wealthy owners were away. The house was set on a snowy hill overlooking the vast Yellow Sea, not yellow but a colorless and wintry slate-grey, with its shoreline littered with great chunks of ice. Warmed by crackling fireplaces, our temporary home was already lavishly decorated for the Season, with gifts in colorful wrappings, stacked under a gorgeously-decorated fir tree.
I was seven. Almost eight.
Little did I know that a war was brewing and that for the three following years our family would be packed into a room just 12 feet by 10 feet, in which we would sleep and eat and play and pray and have our being. No presents, no decorations for those future Christmases in wartime China; all ‘foreigners’ were locked up for the duration of hostilities. I have almost no memories, good or bad, of those prison Christmases.
But that was in the time to come. For now, this little boy was wallowing in unaccustomed lavishness, exploring every little corner of this enormous ‘castle’ as the Big Day approached. Mum and Dad had planned a party for Christmas night with lots of guests, a party at which each child would sing a song, play an instrument, or tell a Bible story. It fell to me to recite a carol. With my Mum’s help, the words got pumped into me and I could spout them out more or less perfectly.
Christmas night came, gifts had been opened and played with, and 30 or 40 of us were crammed into the living room; chairs for the big people, floor for the kids. A makeshift stage was squeezed up against the tree which was laden with varicolored bells and baubles, and get this - a dozen lighted candles hot-waxed on little holders. Flames on a Christmas tree! Honest!
I wish I could tell you that the tree caught fire, that everyone escaped safely even though the house burned down. No, it was worse than that.
Fairly confidently, I got up to say my piece. The crowd hushed, a baby cried, and I launched into “We three kings of orient are, bearing gifts we travavav . . .” and rest was gone. Hopelessly and unrecoverably missing in action. Empty head. Brain fried. Tripped up by a single word - traverse.
I stood there dumb, for an eternity of five seconds. Then, like a shot I bolted down off the stage, gushing tears - and was gone. I hid until all guests had left and until my mother lovingly found and comforted me. Or tried to.
Never would I, nor did I, speak in front of a crowd of people again. Well, I guess at our wedding reception I hesitantly read some pitiful doggerel that I had scribbled on a piece of paper. And much later, very, very occasionally, stressed out beyond words and reading every word from a crib-sheet, I fearfully and knee-knockingly would chair a church service. But that was it.
Then I joined YWAM.
And as they say, the rest is a mystery.
Come, let’s celebrate Christmas! It’s not a Christmystery! It’s time to “Fear not!”
In our rush towards Christmas, and with all our frantic activity, it's easy to forget about the humanness of Mary. The miracle of her willingness, as a virgin, to carry and then bring Jesus our Savior and Lord into this world as a baby - He who grew to be the One who would live and die amongst us; He who would show us how to live and die - Mary's willingness that sometimes gets missed. She must have been about 15 when she became engaged to Joseph (I wonder if it was an arranged marriage, because her parents would have desired the best for her). Sounds like she was very pure in her heart and wanted to please God.
God saw that heart, and chose her to be the mother of His son Jesus. So Gabriel the angel visits her and tells her she is highly favored, and that the Lord is with her. Her reply? "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said."
What an amazing response! Obviously her heart was to please God and she believed that nothing was impossible with God.
Then Mary went to visit Elizabeth, her older cousin, who was also pregnant - which in itself was a miracle. Mary likely had morning sickness and back pain, as her body changed during those first three months. She pondered a lot in her heart. She would have been a disgrace to her family, because they never would have believed her story. But Elizabeth understood; she was an older woman who also walked with God. I'm sure their conversations were amazing with such great revelation. I loved Mary's song that came straight out of her heart - she didn't question events, but gave thanks to God, "The Lord's mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation." (Luke 1:50)
Have you ever put yourself in Mary's 'shoes.' When the Passion of the Christ was being shown, I asked God if I had to go because I hate seeing violence. Jesus said to me, by the Spirit, "Yes, I want you to see what my mother went through." I thought my heart would break as I watched Mary following Jesus as he staggered with the cross, then being nailed to that cross. I sobbed.
One of the last things Jesus did, as He was dying, was to honor his mother; he asked John to take her home and care for her. She must have been a very special mother, even though she didn't always understand that her son had to be about his Father's business; always, she was there for Him.
I think God is looking for others of us who will fulfill the visions He has on His heart. These visions can be achieved through us who are willing and believe, as we are led by the Holy Spirit and live by His Spirit. Obedience and humility are the keys, coming out of love for God.
Maybe you're like me, an older woman who is available to younger women; to ponder in our hearts and to talk with the fear of the Lord about what God is doing in our lives.
So much to reflect on during this Christmas season! I just love Jesus and look forward to talking to Mary when I get to heaven.
Have a wonderful Christmas, and as we enter the new year, I believe we have to choose; will we serve the Kingdom of God or serve the kingdom of the world? I sense there will be a great distinction between disciples of Jesus and those who are just 'believers.'
Love and blessings,
Feb 10-15 Kona, Hawaii: YWAM Associates Second MedGathering with Drs David & Ruth Demian. Hosts: Dr Bruce & Barbara Thompson, Peter & Donna Jordan.
The Small Print
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