Christmas 25 years ago was a very difficult time for me and my three oldest children. Our preparation that year was not for Christmas, but for totally packing up life as we had known it, and coming back to the States with 2 suitcases apiece and my electric keyboard. We sent one large box via the postal service. Everything else had to be sold or given away.
We flew from Paris to Chicago on December 23rd that year. I was flying alone with 3 children ages 5, 7, and 9. It was a Monday, and we had been traveling since the wee hours of the morning. On top of that, I had discovered on Saturday evening, after all businesses were closed, that my 5 year old’s passport was expired. I had no choice but to travel anyway, praying over and over that God would allow us to get through customs with no problems.
What a relief it was to finally be through customs with nary a word from any official on either end of the voyage about the expired passport. (Thank You, Lord!)
What a relief it was to rest at the home of my sister who went overboard to see to it that we had a good Christmas. I had nothing to offer her, but she understood.
I would not say that I had a joyful Christmas that year (as one normally thinks of joy in terms of gladness and dancing), but my sister offered me rest, relief, and respite in a time of great turmoil and grief. (I do remember the outfit she and our other sister bought me, though. I loved it! My sisters have such good taste!)
I did not feel great joy then, but I have joy now, even in the sadness that grips my heart as I pull these memories out of storage. I have joy in the realization that my family loved me and was willing to welcome us home in dire circumstances. I think then I just felt relief and some sort of safety from the overwhelming circumstances that put us in that position, temporary safety from a raging storm that had come to rip me to shreds.
I knew that God was with us. I felt His strong and protective Presence with us. I did not at that time, however, make the connection (in so many words) that the Baby born in the manger so long ago, Emmanuel, God with us, was the reason that such a thing was possible.
But it was. Jesus became my Savior when I was just a child. He came into my heart, forgave my sins, and made me a new creation. If He had not come as Emmanuel, God with us, with the purpose of becoming the only Sacrifice for sin, I could not have then, nor now, had a relationship with Him.
Jesus, Emmanuel, has been with me and led me through the Red Sea that threatened to swallow me alive and through the lonely, arid wilderness that followed those life-changing events that Christmas so long ago. He has graciously led me over time to a more joyful place through the realization of the greatness of His amazing grace, and taught me that we can have joy even in very trying times. Sometimes that joy just looks less like dancing and more like curling up contentedly on the couch with a good book in front of the fireplace while a devastating storm rages outside.
“I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10,11