Gunfire at Christmas

The call came early on Christmas morning. Gunmen, enraged over a tribal dispute, had gone into a church and shot worshipers on Christmas morning. My husband was the mission director for the province where the incident occurred and our breakfast guest the head of a mission’s aviation service. Within minutes my husband and guest were out the door headed to the airstrip. I began to make phone calls trying to contact police, who in the country where we worked, took holidays off, so I spent a lot of time with ringing phones and no answers.
As missions is a creative profession, a “Plan B” was hastily pulled together. Doctors, ambulances and police all took the day off, so we got in touch with a network of Christian workers in Morobe Province who dropped their plans, gathered vehicles and headed 40 miles out of town to the airfield to which the wounded would be taken. Hours passed between the time flights took off to pick up the wounded and bring them to a hospital and the time those planes landed in Lae. The area hospital was offering no surgery on Christmas, or Boxing Day so the wounded had only the medical assistance missionary workers could render on board small aircraft and a lot of prayer on their behalf. The transport took several hours and it was 10 hours between the time my husband left home and when he returned.

That made for a very different sort of Christmas. It was a sunny day and in the southern hemisphere, Christmas is a summer time holiday. There are not many “special occasions” but we made Christmas a very important holiday in our home. Gifts were under the tree and a well prepared meal on which we’d splurged a small fortune grew tepid on the counter. I was home alone with our son, and about 3 PM after six hours of patiently waiting for something Christmas-like to happen he asked me, “Mom, is today still Christmas?” I thought a moment and replied, “Yes, son. Today is why we need Christmas”.

Not every disappointing Christmas is marked by gunfire, but it is not uncommon for Christmas to be a hard time of year for many. This is often greater for Christians who feel an added dose of guilt if they are not enjoying every moment of the holiday in the way they feel they should. It’s as if the joy of the day somehow accentuates the sadness they feel inside and they feel sadder for being sad. I had years when I struggled with the same thing but that Christmas marked by gunfire changed my perspective.

If you are feeling sad this Christmas, celebrate the fact that God knows you in your darkness. He came as Light to the World. He cares about the sorrow and willingly is called “The Man of Sorrows”. He sees our sense of hopelessness and declares Himself, “The Hope of Nations”. He feels our loneliness and comes as “Emmanuel” that we remember “God is with Us”.

Joy is not a feeling, it is a perspective. For all who are filled with laughter and happiness and loving all things Christmas, that is a joy that shall not be taken from them. But there will be Christmas days in life when your feelings will not rise to meet your expectations, when sorrow will be palpable and trouble shadow your celebration. Christmas is for you, too. It is your day as well and the perspective you have on the days when life is not so merry reminds you why He came. It’s a worthy way to celebrate and you appreciate the fullness of Christmas for the times that are not so “merry”. Be thankful for these days too. Your perspective is richer for the lean times and more mature for knowing Him in hard times as well. A joyful Christmas to you.

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