On Christmas morning my three younger children will slide out of bed and rush to look in their stockings. They will happily compare their little gifts, then not-so-happily wait until everyone is up and breakfast is served, eaten and table cleared before we open presents.
They live with excitement about receiving gifts, and increasingly with joy at giving gifts. I enjoy that.
And my oldest son will not care about any of it. For him, it is just another day. With heavy coaxing and much help, he will ‘open’ a present. He may like it, or he may not. He might like it in six months. Or never. Or if his sleep cycle is off again, he may just want to sleep in his chair all day.
At some point, I’ll feel that ache in my heart that wants him to enjoy something, anything, with the enthusiasm of his siblings. I will feel like crying. After 16 Christmases, I’m pretty sure about this.
Then, something will happen. It always does. Whether from a child, or a piece of music, or during a family prayer, God will remind me that this really is a happy day.
We celebrate because of Jesus.
The Messiah has been born. Angels will tell about him to shepherds and pagans will follow a star to worship him.
He will grow up and say radical things to people with broken hearts:
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
(Matthew 5:2-8 ESV)
He will let little children come to him. He will cast out demons, heal the sick, cleanse lepers and reverse disabilities. He will speak harshly to those who are arrogant and gently to those who are forgotten or ignored or marginalized.
He gives meaning to disability:
Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents (that he was born blind), but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
(John 9:3 ESV)
He proves his authority through disability:
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose. . .
(Mark 2:10-12 ESV)
He will live a perfect life. And he will die, but only at the right time and only because he allows it to happen:
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
(John 10:17-18 ESV)
And he would take it up again! He would teach us that he didn’t do it out of reluctant obligation – but for JOY! He endured not simply for the sake of endurance, but for the sake of eternal joy that he freely shares with his elect!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
Not one of us who cling to him will be lost – not a single one! No one can snatch us out of his hand!
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.
(John 10:27-30 ESV)
He holds everything together, including our children with disabilities:
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
(Hebrews 1:3 ESV)
After he rose and just before he returned to the Father, he gave us a job:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:6-8 ESV)
So, we testify, and we wait. But we wait with anticipation for a new day! It is coming – just like the people had to wait before Jesus came the first time, we must wait until his second coming. And it will be worth it!
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”
(Revelation 21:5-6 ESV)
So, today our hearts ache. But even here, we see God’s grace toward us as it increases our longing for him:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
(Romans 8:18-30 ESV)
Christmas is the signal that all our suffering and all our pain is coming to an end. Not because of us, but because of Jesus.
Someday, my child and yours, who have never ‘enjoyed’ this day, will enjoy it purely, as it is meant to be enjoyed. And they won’t feel like they have missed anything important on this earth. Nor will we.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
(Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)
Amen and Amen!