Wednesday, December 16, 2020

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: This Christmas, Something Better Than We Can Imagine


“Sometimes what we think we need isn’t what we need at all, and what gets thrown in for good measure is that which fills our hearts.” Philip Gulley

For nearly everyone, Christmas 2020 will probably not look like what we earlier imagined for ourselves. This is not likely to be a “normal” Christmas for most of us.

Some are already grieving or complaining that the virus will keep them apart from loved ones this holiday season. They fear they will miss long-anticipated gatherings due to travel restrictions or safety concerns.

Some are suffering financially. This has been a difficult year for many families, having lost jobs or businesses, or finding that a shrinking national or local economy has reduced their personal income. Many worry that they will not be able to buy the gifts they hoped to give their little ones.

Some have experienced the death or serious illness of family members and friends. My wife Marcie’s mother died in April of Covid-19 contracted in a locked-down nursing home. Our daughter-in-law Hilary’s father succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s disease in September. We will deeply miss sharing Christmas with them this year. Many others we know have suffered similar losses, whether Covid-related or not. These absences will cast a pall over our holidays.

Nearly everyone will be impacted by the loss of festive parties and traditional gatherings in homes, offices, churches, and neighborhoods, as we continue to “socially distance.” Sharing gifts, Christmas hugs, kisses under the mistletoe, and other affectionate greetings will be AWOL this December.

I could go on, but you get the point.

So, what are we to do? Do we just mope around through the holidays, spewing doom and gloom from now until the new year and beyond? Do we bemoan what we do not have or will not experience, and in the process fail to recognize what can still be ours this Christmas? Will we allow our victimhood to rob us of the joy of the season?

I hope not.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a jewel of a thought in a Facebook post that could serve to brighten our Christmas spirits. The context was quite different, but the sentiment is the perfect antidote to our communal holiday malaise. I believe it could help us pivot our attitude from negativity to joyful thanksgiving. It could even produce a far better Christmas than we can even imagine.

My friend Adam Zern is a gifted and highly successful leader of young men in our church. He has guided scores of boys, if not hundreds, in navigating the difficult passage to manhood. Ironically, however, in his own family, he has four daughters and zero sons. This is something he never expected from life. In recently expressing his deep love and gratitude for his children, Adam used a powerful quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne that we all could choose to apply to the upcoming Christmas season.  Adam wrote:

Oh, my girls. I’m not sure anyone plans to have all girls, but in the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Providence had meditated better things for me than I could possibly imagine for myself.” I do [everything] I do for them. As one who knows, God loves his daughters and counts their tears. I am forever theirs. #givethanks.

I invite you to re-read and savor Hawthorne’s words: “Providence had meditated better things for me than I could possibly imagine for myself.”

What an earth-shattering idea! Even if we think we know what would be best for us, God may have something EVEN BETTER in mind for us. God’s plans for us or God’s timing for our lives could turn out to be far more wonderful than our own grand expectations. He may actually know what’s best for us.

Do you suppose this concept could revolutionize the way we are thinking about this upcoming Christmas? Here are some questions I want to pose for myself and for all of you:

  • What if we adopt the “Hawthorne/Zern attitude” regarding our upcoming Christmas?

  • What if, instead of lamenting what won’t be, we have faith that something better could result for us?

  • What if we re-think and re-configure our holiday plans to seize the opportunities we do have?

  • What if we begin to open our eyes to new possibilities, and we began to search for something else, something different, something new, something better?

  • What if we trust that “Providence has meditated better things for us than we could possibly imagine for ourselves,” and then we worked to make it so?

  • Thinking afresh, what if this Christmas our present-giving and present-receiving took a back seat to deeper thoughts and more meaningful sharing?

  • Thinking afresh, what if this Christmas we rejoiced in what we do have, rather than grumbled about what we don’t have or — even worse — begrudged others what they have.

  • Thinking afresh, what if this Christmas we set aside the time and found the quietude to contemplate what we can do to bring, as the angelic choirs proclaimed, peace on earth and good will to mankind, at least to our little corner of the world?

  • Thinking afresh, what if this Christmas we, like the shepherds of old, returned to our fields of labor glorifying and praising God for all the things that we have heard and seen and felt?

  • Thinking afresh, what if this Christmas, after the hubbub has subsided, we, like Mary, kept all these things and pondered them in our hearts?

  • Thinking afresh, what if this Christmas, by study, meditation, and prayer, we came to truly understand and appreciate the supernal and eternal significance of the virgin birth of the Christ-child in an obscure village in Judea?

I believe that with a little effort and the right attitude, we can enjoy an incredible Christmas this year, because I have faith that “Providence has meditated better things for us than we could possibly imagine for ourselves.”