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Archive for the ‘christmas’ Category


This is another post from a few years back that gets requested often:

EmptyPlaceTableI’ve written about it before, the dull ache that grips my heart right before Thanksgiving and doesn’t let up until January 1.  There’s something about the holidays that accentuates grief and loss.

Some years are better than others.  Ramona Glory’s presence ushers in profound joy, but even little sweet pea can’t fill the empty place at the table.

And she wasn’t meant to . . .

I’ve come to embrace the ache as a gift; to see the empty spot as a reminder that we are truly just pilgrims passing through.  Jonah’s place will remain vacant until we are all gathered together at the Lamb’s wedding feast.

My heart goes out to those who will face those empty places for the first time this year.  The gatherings, the traditions, the music, the gifts . . . will all feel like nails in the coffin of the loved ones lost.  The wild grief eventually subsides, the weeping stops . . . but the ache will remain until our pilgrimage ends.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Rev. 21:4

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In between our church’s Christmas eve services last night, I ran downstairs to help my new friend, Amanda, prepare for a very different Christmas eve event–she and a group of volunteers were heading out to give presents and hot coffee to the shivering prostitutes who worked the streets on this most sacred of nights.

“It’s so cold out–and it’s raining!  Are you really going out tonight?”  I asked Amanda, who started Scarlet Cord ministries.

“The women are out there–so we will be, too,” she answered without hesitation.  I hugged her and returned to the cozy church service as Amanda walked out into the freezing rain . . .

*********

Forming redemptive relationships with the women who work the strip joints and the streets of Portland is Scarlet Cord’s purpose.  This is accomplished by providing a meal and basic necessities (including condoms) for these ladies and their children every Friday night–at our little church building in north Portland!

Female volunteers divide and conquer each Friday afternoon.  One group, the street team, heads for 82nd and the other teams stays and prepares the meal.

Amanda told me that the street team goes out on the streets and into the strip joints to invite the women to the dinner being served at the church.

“These girls all have stories,” Amanda told me recently.  “No little girl ever just decides she wants to be a prostitute or a stripper when she grows up. ”

Once the women realize the volunteers don’t want anything from them, they often let down their guard.  Amanda was in the G-Spot (a strip joint on 82nd) not long ago and had an enlightening chat with one of the dancers.  “D” was wearing the usual skimpy attire–and a beautiful cross necklace.  After Amanda admired the pendant, “D” explained that it was a gift her mother had given her during her battle with cancer.

“I wear it to remind myself that God healed me and has a purpose for my life,” D confided.

As I listened and struggled to make sense of this strange scenario, Amanda leaned forward and said something even more mind-boggling:

“God is in the G-spot,” she told me.  “His love has deeply impacted “D”‘s life.  Jesus is in those terrible, dark places, reaching out to those women with His unconditional love.”

If you doubt Jesus’ affinity for prostitutes, you need to read through the gospels a few times.  Our worship service last night was lovely, as we focused on the babe in the manger.

But I’m pretty sure the Prince of Peace was out on the streets . . . cradling the broken.

*********

Take me to that place where we’re children again
And we crawl on the lap of the Peace Child
Take me to the land where love is discovered
With the prince undercover as the Peace Child

And the poor can now see
How a king can believe
In a kingdom that cradles the broken

O come, o come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
From lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears

We look to be upright as we grasp for a chance
But we’re too dirty to dance with the Peace Child
But the sunset and its red floods the world with its rays
Like the blood of the babe of the Peace Child

And the dead can now sing
At the throne of the king
‘Cause heaven is full of us peasants

The Normals

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go tell it on the mountain


Krispin, my son-in-law, asked me what my favorite Christmas carol was last night. A good question. For me, however, the answer seems to change every year.

As a young child, my most beloved Christmas song was “Angels We Have Heard On High.” While that might seem like a rather lofty song for such a young soul, it delighted and transported me as I belted out the chorus.

“Glo-o-o-o-o-ria! In excelsis deo!”

I had no idea the words I sang meant “Glory to God in the Highest” in latin. I just had a sense that plain English couldn’t fully capture the wonderment I felt toward the Christ child’s coming. But the strange syllables, rolling easily off my tongue, seemed a worthy offering to Him.

It was, perhaps, my first encounter with speaking in tongues . . .

I’ve always loved the serene hope of Silent Night and the unabashed worship of O Come, All Ye Faithful. After Jonah was born, my sweet December son, any carol about Mary and her Baby stirred my heart.

This year, my hand’s down favorite carol is: Go Tell it on the Mountain! I can’t sing the words to that old spiritual without picturing my youngest daughter proclaiming the Good News of Christmas from the mountain tops of India . . . and Uganda . . . and Azerbaijan . . . and Sudan.

She and her team plan to celebrate Christmas somewhere in Sudan later this week–either in a refugee camp or remote village. She has emailed several times and mentioned the growing darkness in that part of the world–but affirmed her resolve to be the light of Christ in those places.

She and each of her team members have toted small shoe boxes full of trinkets and treats halfway across the world. As they open their humble gifts on Dec. 25th, our prayer is that they will feel connected to family, friends and culture by the small offerings we sent.

But I suspect this year, the team will feel more connected than ever to Christ as they serve those who have no concept of Christmas.

And as they go tell it on the mountain, in the midst of the poverty, disease and danger, they will have a greater revelation of the refugee King.

What better gift can there be?

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(This is a post I wrote two years ago, and it gets more hits than any other blog I’ve written. Desperate people around the world google words like “what will Christmas be like for my child in heaven?” and other poignant phrases, trying to get a glimpse of eternity. Please know that if you’ve stumbled upon my blog in a search for comfort and hope, I am praying for you! I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me: salyne@hotmail.com)

Christmas is a bittersweet time for me. To be perfectly honest, a mild depression sets in right after Thanksgiving and doesn’t let up until the Christmas decorations are safely packed away until next December. I’m not the Grinch . . . I just really miss my son this time of year.
Jonah was born on December 6, 1984. This may sound cheesy, but I couldn’t help thinking about Mary and her newborn son as I nursed my baby boy in the glow of the Christmas tree lights that first year. All the Christmas carols about the infant Jesus held new meaning for me as I tenderly cradled my first born child.

Four Christmases later, I sat in the same rocking chair, mourning the loss of my son. Jonah had been killed in a car accident in late August. My body had pretty much healed from the injuries I’d suffered, but my heart was still hopelessly shattered. In my head, I knew that Jonah was with Jesus, perfect and whole and happy. He wasn’t autistic anymore. But my heart ached because my arms would never hold him again–not on this planet, anyway.
Greg and I numbly went through the motions of getting a Christmas tree and decorating the house that December. We baked cookies and bought presents. But it all seemed so hollow, so pointless that year. I found it difficult to celebrate the birth of Jesus as I deeply grieved for my first born son.
My manger was empty . . .
I think it was during this dark period of my life when I began to write. Paper and pen became my therapist, a channel for my soul to wrestle with its loss. One night, when the pain had become unbearable, I tried to imagine what Jonah was doing–how he was celebrating Christmas in his new home. This poem emerged as I tried to capture my imagination in words:

What’s Christmas like in heaven?
Will you hear the angels sing
Of Jesus birth–how He came to earth
As a helpless infant King?

What’s Christmas like in heaven?
Will He let you touch the star?
That shone so bright, with heavenly light
and led wise men from afar?

What’s Christmas like in heaven?
Will the wonder ever cease?
To see Him as He really is–
To know, at last, His peace?

As I visualized Jonah, sitting on Jesus’ lap and hearing Him tell the Christmas story, I was comforted somehow. I was given a new perspective–the joy of celebrating Christmas in the very presence of Christ–and it gave me a peace that quieted my heart. And got me through that first Christmas without him . . .
Twenty-two Christmases have come and gone since Jonah died, and that thought comforts me still.

To see Him as He really is–and know, at last, His peace . . .

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