December 11 – Christmas 1989
December 1989: News organizations broadcast live from the Berlin Wall as it came crashing down, symbolizing the rapidly imploding collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the coming breakup of the Soviet Union. Having grown-up under the constant threat of global nuclear war during the 50’s, I normally would be elated.
But these were not normal times for me. My life came crashing down, much like the Berlin Wall. 1989 would be my first Christmas as a divorced single parent with two young children. My credibility and confidence as pastor of a local church was dubious. Didn’t the Bible say: “If someone cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:5) A former employer called upon hearing the news and offered a lucrative job and an opportunity to quit the ministry.
In the Gospel of Matthew: “Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly so as not to disgrace her publicly.” (Mat 1:18-19) We know and accept that Mary was pregnant through God’s Holy Spirit, but what about Joseph? Mary is pregnant, and he is not the father? Brokenhearted, he strived to do the right thing. His life came crashing down, much like the Berlin Wall.
The future looked bleak for Joseph, but tough times often kindle life-changing turning points. “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit, and she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” (Mat. 1:20-21) Joseph changed. Rather than dumping Mary, he became her protector throughout the accusations and gossip that swirled around their relationship. Joseph then witnessed the birth of the Christ child: God’s Son.
For me, like Joseph: Tragedy 1989 also became a dramatic turning point. I too heard the voice of God offering comfort and healing grace. Family and friends surrounded me with love and acts of kindness. The church I served went out of its way to demonstrate their confidence in me. I chose not to quit but to change. I discovered an exciting new ministry offering God’s grace and hope to others experiencing divorce. I became a more compassionate minister willing to share my struggles and shortcomings as well as triumphs. I worked hard at being a good single parent for my children.
I also met Mell just before Christmas. As she talked about her recent divorce, I found myself sharing my own difficulties. We were soon talking as if we had known each other for years. Christmas is not always a happy time, but it can be a meaningful time. God has a way of taking our tragedies and using them to become turning points toward better lives. If you are facing a tragic Christmas? Look up! God is there, ready, willing and able to provide comfort, guidance and help.
Prayer Challenge: Pray for Christmas to be a time of receiving God’s comfort and grace.