Christmas Letter To My Kids
This was a hard, but beautiful Christmas in our family. Heartache causes us to reflect and to look for beauty that will come out of ashes. My kids amaze me with their grace and their capacity to love through all of it. I could not possibly be more thankful for each and every one of them.
The following is a letter I read to them Christmas morning. I know many people have to look for good through the lens of suffering and this time of year intensifies that. I hope this will encourage others as well.
Two Strange Passages for Christmas
To My Beloved Children:
I want to read you two passages from the Bible which, at first, might not seem appropriate for Christmas, but I think you’ll understand why I chose them by the time I’m done.
The first is from the book of Genesis – from the story of Joseph. This is near the end of Joseph’s story – after his brothers had been so wicked and envious of him that they plotted to kill him, sold him into slavery instead, lied to their father and told him Joseph had been eaten by a wild animal, and Joseph had suffered years of slavery, loneliness, unjust imprisonment, and through a myriad of sovereignly appointed events, had risen to enormous power in Egypt. These years had shaped Joseph and had put him into a position to organize the Egyptians to store up vast amounts of grain during years of plenty because he knew that years of famine were coming. But Joseph’s family didn’t have such stores. Their father sent all but one of his sons down to Egypt because they heard there was food there. The story is a little long, so for brevity, I’ll tell you that it had been many years since Joseph had seen his brothers and when he did, he was both relieved and filled with apprehension. He remembered all they had done to him. When he saw them after all those years, he recognized them, but they didn’t recognize him. He decided to test his brothers to see if they had changed. If you read the whole story, you’ll see that they had changed… some. Joseph brought his entire family to safety in Egypt where they stayed and flourished, but when their father eventually died, the brothers revealed that they had not ever really reckoned with what they had done. Here’s what they said:
“It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ … Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50: 15-20
The point of the story is this: God used even the evil that Joseph’s brothers had committed for good. He used it to accomplish his good purposes. Through all the hard and painful events of Joseph’s life God made him into a humble, powerful leader. He used it to save the lives of millions of people by giving Joseph the wisdom and strength he needed to rule well. And he used the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers to save them too.
Nothing is wasted that God ordains.
The second passage I want to read to you is from Matthew 23. Jesus was talking to a large crowd of people who had gathered to hear his teaching. The crowd consisted of people who genuinely wanted to follow him, some people who weren’t sure what they thought, and there was also a group of men called Scribes and Pharisees – religious rulers who were supposed to lead the people in all God’s ways.
But there was a huge problem. The religious leaders – the ones who had full access to the scriptures and knew all the things God had told his people, were using their positions to fleece the people. The truth was so mixed up with lies that it was impossible for the people to know what God really required. And they had become harsh and cruel.
Jesus said: you say one thing, but do another. You’ve played games with peoples’ souls and they follow you to hell – becoming even worse than you! You’ve made it appear to those you should have been caring for that you were being faithful, but really you were feeding your own greedy desires at their expense! You’ve neglected and taken advantage of the ones you were supposed to protect and care for! You do not examine your own hearts but cast judgement on others!
But after he brought all these charges against them he mournfully cried out, saying,
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Matthew 23: 37
Freedom to Grieve
So – why did I choose these two passages?
First, these have been a huge comfort to me and I wanted to share that with you. This is a hard time in our family and it would be silly to try to act as if it were not so. But I am convinced that God is working – even through all these hard things, and yes, even through the wicked things that have been done against us – for good.
Second, I want you to know that it’s ok to grieve over the way things should have been. I’ve often asked, “how does one grieve over something one has never had?” But then I remembered Jesus’ lament. The Scribes and Pharisees were terrible leaders. Their indifference to the suffering they caused was wicked and cruel – they should have shepherded, but didn’t. That caused Jesus to grieve deeply. We can grieve, too.
But very shortly after Jesus lamented over this, he was taken away, beaten and tortured and hung on a cross to die for them – for us. He wept over the way things were, and then laid down his life to change that. He might have wept bitterly, but he did not become bitter. He loved. We can do that, too.
That’s why he came. That’s why we have Christmas.
I love you guys.