Donna VanLiere talks about the hope of Christmas.
You remember the scene: Charlie Brown is confiding in his pal Linus on a bright, wintry day but something’s amiss. “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus,” Charlie Brown says. “Christmas is coming but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. Just don’t understand Christmas I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”
Apparently, Charlie Brown had been watching too many Christmas commercials and movies, where idyllic decorations brighten every corner of a home and attractive, good-natured family members laugh easily with one another and pajama-clad children chatter like Santa’s elves over board games and puzzles in front of a roaring fire. In our imaginations we envision our friends and coworkers with a beautiful tree, a gorgeous meal, and their shiny, happy faces enjoying it all. Christmas is, after all, for two-car/two-job families in towns called Pleasantville. Somehow we, along with Charlie Brown, have been sold a bill of goods that that’s what Christmas is.
Where did it all go south and how did we get it so wrong? While picture-perfect/happy people enjoy Christmas, it was never intended for them. Jesus was not born in a mansion or castle or even surrounded by nobility. He was born to a simple peasant woman and her carpenter husband so that He could sympathize with our brokenness and heartache, our pain and greatest disappointments. The first people who took the time to find him were not kings or queens or celebrities of any kind. They were working class shepherds who were working the night shift.
“Do not be afraid,” the angel said to them. “I bring you good news of great joy.” Perhaps the shepherds were thinking weekends off with pay but the angel went on. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
A Savior has come for the girl who left home at 16 and for the father who drove her away. A Rescuer has come for every child who has been abandoned by a parent. A Redeemer has come for every man or woman whose train wreck of a life careened off the rails years ago. That’s who Christmas is for!
It’s for the lonely and the broken hearted. It’s for the widow or the family with an empty chair around their table. It’s for the single mom who works two jobs to feed her kids. It’s for the young women who work in strip clubs and the mothers at home who worry about them. Christmas is for the homeless man who waits for the doors of the rescue mission to open for a hot meal and for the lonely millionaire tucked away behind the moat that is his massive front-yard.
Christmas is for everyone who keeps looking for love in all the wrong places and hoping deep in their hearts that the hope of Christmas really does exist. Christmas is for those who have lost everything: their job, their fortune, their good name, their family, or their dreams. Christmas is for those who punch a time clock and have swollen feet. It’s for those who ride a train an hour-and-a-half each way for work and for those who sell beauty and glamor when they themselves feel ugly and lost.
Christmas came to heal broken marriages and mend fractured families. Jesus came for those who drink too much, smoke like chimneys, inhale from a crack pipe, sell their bodies on the street, keep a medicine cabinet full of drugs to get them through the day, and for those who are unfaithful to their spouse.
That dark, smelly stable filled with the stink and noise of animals is not a place to look down on or be pitied, but rather it was the beginning of hope for us all. Grace was born there. Peace penetrated our hopelessness there. Love shone bright in our darkness. That is our comfort and joy.
Like Charlie Brown, if Christmas has got you down, if you’re feeling that your life somehow doesn’t measure up to the hype, then Christmas is for you!
Thirty-four-year-old Gabe Rodriquez works in the maintenance dept of the Grandon Elementary School, where he often talks with seven-year-old Bella, a precocious young girl who has spent her childhood in foster care. Unbeknownst to Gabe, Bella is a mini-matchmaker, with her eye on just the right woman for Gabe at Glory’s Place, the after school program she attends. When he attends the Glory’s Place annual fundraiser, however, Gabe gets an unexpected surprise: the woman Bella wants him to meet is his ex-wife, Amy.
As Christmas nears, Bella continues to push Gabe and Amy together, despite their protests. Although at first they are simply polite to each other for Bella’s sake, as they start to spend more and more time together, they both begin to wonder: Could there be something more between them than years of heartache and broken promises?
Donna VanLiere is a mom, a wife, an animal lover, and a closet comedian at home. She’s passionate about cooking (…and eating), reading, movies and teaching, inspiring, challenging and encouraging dreamers! Donna also loves to write books. Her newest book is The Christmas Star available now.