ZEELAND, MI – It’s here! That magical moment we affectionately refer to as “Christmas time.” Whether you have been listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving or deem it to begin the night of Thanksgiving, it’s officially here! Wikipedia defines Christmas as “The annual Christian festival celebrating Christ's birth, held on December 25 in the Western Church.”
Personally, it has always been my favorite season. As a kid, Christmas meant no school, late nights, parties at church and with friends, and hopefully, a snow storm. While in college, it was the season that my wife and I began dating. I will never forget our first date in downtown Chicago on the Magnificent Mile. Now, I am a father and it means more time with my kids.
Since I am also a pastor, I have leadership celebrations to attend, community outreach events, and many other opportunities that pull my attention from my Savior. At times, the more we strive to maximize the season, the more we tend to minimize the value and virtue of the One we are celebrating. We often find ourselves ready for the season to be over so we can get back into our normal rhythm of life. We leave the longed-for season emotionally and physically empty, and promise to make changes the following year.
Three years ago, our world was forever changed. Truthfully, we entered the most difficult Christmas season ever. Danisse nearly passed away giving birth to Hudson as the doctors encountered severe complications during the cesarean procedure for Hudson. Her blood pressure dropped to 33/18 and she lost her entire body’s blood volume. She received multiple transfusions, and God spared her life. This left her to recover with 48 staples in her abdomen, and a long uphill recovery process. She was immobile for 3 weeks and needed constant monitoring. Two weeks into the process, our son Evan went in for an emergency appendectomy. I would stay at the hospital until Evan would fall asleep, go home to check on Danisse and Hudson, and make sure our other two children were getting their homework finished.
Two weeks following Evan’s surgery, he was back at the hospital being checked for Leukemia, and a week later for heart complications. Little did we know that just two months later, my daughter Mia would be (thankfully) misdiagnosed with a tragic illness that we would live with for the next 6 months before the doctor corrected the misdiagnosis. I remember hosting a Christmas party for our church leaders and staff, and watching them laugh and enjoy themselves. I smiled and laughed all while hurting so badly inside, and I could hardly even eat. I was confused at even my own emotions toward Jesus. I was broken inside and needed emotional and spiritual healing. It was during this season that my world forever changed.
John 10:10 reminds us “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
While I am convinced Jesus allowed those trials to be catalysts to increase our faith and exalt His Name, the devil used it to dampen my fire, kill my resolve, and discourage my hope. Satan used my humanity to remind me of my own failure and nearly miss the greatest blessing of the Christmas season. It was in this season of losing that Jesus confronted me with the question, “Am I enough?” I have to admit, at that time, He wasn’t.
While we find blessings in the people, the presents, and the performances, Jesus is not just our anecdotal reason for the season, He is the center of our joy! As we learn to find satisfaction in Jesus, we find the season of Christmas much more satisfying, whether or not we are living a Hallmark Christmas special or the nightmare of hospitals, life and death situations and all the uncertainty. No matter the struggles you and I face, may we celebrate God’s goodness and the salvation that comes through His son, Jesus, born in Bethlehem.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dave Abberger is the lead pastor of Hope Church, a new church plant in Zeeland, MI. He and Danisse have been married for 15 years and have 4 children. Before returning to Michigan to plant Hope, he was a senior pastor in both North Carolina and Tennessee.”