I always loved Christmas. The lights, the music, the decorations and the gifts were always the culmination of the year—the big countdown—the point on the calendar where every other day found its place. So, it’s no wonder my first Christmas in missions felt off. I was on outreach in the tropics. It was sunny, hot and humid. The Christmas carols seemed out of place and the best efforts at festivities somehow fell short.
Because we were working in a remote location, mail from home was sporadic and infrequent. So, we knew it was a gift from God when a bundle of mail arrived on Christmas Day. As I opened cards and letters from home, a combination of love poured in and homesickness poured out.
One letter was from my one financial supporter. As tenderly as possible, he explained he would no longer be able to support me. What? I read it again. How could this be? I had followed God’s call to missions in faith. I had stepped way out of my comfort zone and now I felt abandoned, alone, like I was sitting on a branch that was being cut off from under me. Receiving this news was hard enough, but receiving it on Christmas Day was like salt being poured in a wound.
I fell to the floor. What was I supposed to do? I didn’t even have enough money to get home. How could God allow this news to come on Christmas Day?
Then a quiet voice spoke to my heart. “What better day to receive bad news than on the day the world celebrates the coming of hope?” I knew that was not my thought. I quickly realized I had a choice. I could wallow in fear or I could choose to trust God.
I’m grateful to say, through God’s faithfulness and the generous partnership of many people, I continued to serve in missions for over 15 years. And every year, I think back to my most memorable Christmas—not because of the festivities, but because of the lesson I learned.
Psalm 112:7 says, “They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.” To confidently trust the Lord, we must know him as Emmanuel, God with us. He is near, He is accessible, He understands, He is for us.
I’m grateful for that difficult Christmas. It changed me. My focus changed. Christmas is a time to remember the fact that our hope has come.
That hope is for the world. That hope is for you and me.
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