Seeing as we are short on cash this year, and the internet is FREE, I decided it was best to send our annual Christmas card Blog-Styled. So here goes.
Dearest Friends and Family, Merry Christmas!
Once again we are at the close of another calendar year, and the beginning of a new church year. It seems as though Earthly “beginnings” and “endings” happen so suddenly around us year round that it’s hard to find the time to stop and give meditation to the more important “beginnings” such as, the birth of the babe in Bethlehem.
I’ll be the first to say that last year it was not about “finding time.” Having just miscarried late into our first trimester, I was bitter. I knew deep down that the “right thing to do” was to celebrate Christmas with my family and rest of the Christian Community, but I could not wait for it to be over. I mean, it’s one thing to not want to be around family who are dressing up their adorable babies/young children in entire -family-matching “once a year Christmas outfits.” It’s another thing to sit in the pew for the entire season of Advent (4 weeks) and hear about “the coming Christ-child.” I was bitter. I was angry. I was depressed. I wanted it over.
I did not send a Christmas card last year.
And then, after some time, I felt guilty.
To be fair, I did not feel guilty for a WHILE. I’d say eight months. I was so wrapped up in my own feelings (which were certainly valid…miscarriage is HARD) that I could not see the truth that was in front of my eyes, and had been for my entire life.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23
These words, while originally Bible verses (yes, verses, they appear first as a prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 and then again as the fulfillment of that prophesy in Matthew 1:23), first became a part of my life when I took voice lessons from Greg Berg in high school. I was blessed to be able to travel with the Wisconsin Ambassadors of Music (WAM) on their 2006 three-week-tour of Europe. This 300 member teenage group included a band and choir, and I would sing alto in that choir. In addition to singing in the choir, vocalists were told they could audition for one of five soloist spots. These soloist, if chosen, would sing an entire piece of their own during our many concerts throughout Europe. The solo Greg picked for me to work on included these special words, as they are, quite literally The Recitative to the alto solo O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion in Handel’s Messiah. (I truly believe God led Greg to pick that song for me for a reason. Maybe multiple reasons… but it’s just another “Hand of God” moment I can now point to, later in life.)
I was surprised when I was chosen to be one of those five soloists. Shocked. That experience left such an impact on my life, one that increased my faith for reasons I cannot put to words. But it did. I sang in cathedrals older than the music I was singing, with acoustics no modern cathedral could imitate. It was life changing.
Years later at Calvin College, I joined The Capella Choir. While there were multiple memorable musical moments (yeesh… the alliteration) with that choir that increased my faith, one in particular stands out. Having recently transferred to Calvin from Gustavus Adolphus (where their “Christmas in Christ Chapel” service leaves all in attendance in a puddle of their own tears each night) I was surprised to hear that in lieu of a Christmas Concert, The Capella Choir joined the Grand Rapids Symphony each year to sing the chorus of Handel’s Messiah.
The Messiah? I’m sorry… that’s not very Christmasy. I mean, there are Christmas portions, sure, but the entire thing includes Easter, Lenten, and Christmas portions. I was pissed. Where was my Christmas-feels-puddle-of-tears going to be?
Well the Messiah grew on me. After three years I was in a puddle of tears by the time we got to the final “Amens.” But it was also moving for me to hear the alto soloist sing, “Oh Thou“ beginning with the recitative.
Immanuel, which is translated, “God With Us.”
This Christmas season, I’m choosing to focus on these simple, three words. God with us. It’s all we need. With God, we can get through anything. Will it be easy to celebrate the coming birth of the Christ Child this year? Honestly, I thought it would be (being nearly 8 weeks pregnant as I type these words) but its not. I’m terrified. Not excited. Constantly preparing for “the end” to show up at the most inconvenient of times.
But God is with me. No matter what. He kept His promise of a Savior from way back in “Old Testament” Isaiah-times and sent Jesus into the world to cover my sins, and wash away all my everlasting sorrows.
He kept His promises.
He is still keeping them.
And He is with us.
I hope you and your family have a safe, happy, and healthy Christmas season. If you are going through hardship of any kind, I hope you can follow my example this year and not my example last year.
Celebrate the birth.
Celebrate the promise.
…Now here are the George pictures that would have gone on our Shutterfly Christmas Cards.