I love to receive Christmas cards! I know it’s fun to make fun of them, but I enjoy following people’s families through the years, especially those who live far away. Every year, I always read my parents’ stack of Christmas cards, too.
One Christmas, I was particularly lonely, and I went over to my parents’ house. People always give them a lot food at Christmas, so I loaded up on Italian pizzelles and sugar cookies, and sat down to read cards. I was feeling sorry for myself and expected to see a stack of cards that did nothing but celebrate marriages and births and brag about superstar children. Yet as I worked my way through the cards, that was not what stood out to me at all. There was an older woman who’d lost her husband that year and was also losing her sight. A young woman was raising children on her own after the death of her husband. Actually, quite a few people had lost spouses, and many were coping with failing health.
In his book, Glorious Ruin, Tullian Tchividjian writes, “Whatever your experience, whatever variety of pain you’re most familiar with, the truth remains: each of us suffers in some way, every single day.” As we struggle to make sense of pain, says Tchividjian, we tend to either moralize or minimize. Moralists tend to explain suffering as the result of misbehavior. The alternative is to try to convince ourselves that our suffering isn’t that bad. After all, “Other people have it so much worse than I do,” or, “It will make me a better person.”
But at some point, we realize these explanations are lacking! After all, we all know someone who was a loving servant at home, at church, and in the community and still died young. And when our friend died, we were struck with grief!
The good news for us is that our God is present with us in our suffering. So present that with us that He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He suffered himself. Even died. Yet unlike us, He has power over death and rose again. His power is mighty to save us and to redeem us from this broken world.
As I read cards that lonely Christmas, seeing suffering people rejoice in the birth of Christ moved me to tears. After all, Christ came for those who suffer. And that’s worth celebrating together!
This year I was excited to send out photo Christmas cards, our first Christmas cards as husband and wife. We chose to print Isaiah 60:20 on the cards:
“For the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning shall be ended.”
We’re rejoicing in Christ’s birth with you, and eagerly anticipating His return, when our suffering will over!
If you’re interested in resources on suffering for yourself or a friend, I highly recommend Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian. His sermon series on Job goes deeper than the book and is available for free on the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church website. The sermon series is entitled “The Gospel of Suffering.” There are eleven sermons, dated September 26, 2010 through December 19, 2010.If you didn’t receive a Christmas card and you would like one, please message me your address!