It was the first Sunday in December, and the sanctuary had been transformed into a Christmas wonderland. The strands of lights were elegantly glistening; the artificial trees were beautifully adorned, and the nativity-themed images on the media screens were welcoming the members and guests to the holiday kick-off service. Christmas was here. And we all know it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
The song service went exactly as anticipated. The beloved, yet only sung-once-a-year, carols ascended from the congregation, and the instrumentalists wowed the crowd with their contemporary arrangement of a Christmas medley. What a glorious day of worship. Everyone loves the time of year when we turn our hearts to the manger that cradled our newborn King some 2000 years ago.
Sitting alongside her husband, in her normal (but not assigned) seat, was a forty-something gal who was mentally combatting the typical seasonal distractions – all the shopping to be done, the party to host on Tuesday evening, and the Christmas cards to be addressed. But she managed. The atmosphere of wonder won her over, and she consciously chose to set herself before God Almighty and to bask in the reality of Bethlehem’s miracle – at least for the one hour worship service.
The pastor approached the ice cream parlor table – hey, that’s what it looks like to me! – and his stool, and with his usual passion and compassion, he began to deliver the first message of his Christmas series. He started from the beginning, not from the very beginning; but he began his sermon by referencing Christ’s forerunner and cousin, John the Baptist. The pastor turned the congregation’s attention to the media screens, and a tastefully produced video that featured the parents of John the Baptist was played. The skit portrayed Zechariah and Elizabeth learning that their long-awaited baby was on his way. The prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the barren couple, had been heard, and God was giving them their miracle baby. His name would be John.
And then it happened. The forty-something gal on the fourth row began to feel her eyes fill with tears. She slid her hand beneath the strong arm of her husband, and without even glancing her way, her mate of twenty-plus years knew what was happening.
The drama on the screens was so tender. So perfect. So Divine. A humble Jewish couple, now advanced in years, had been there. They had walked through the valley of childlessness, and now they were getting from a gracious God the baby they had longed for – the baby they had prayed for. It was a wondrous scene, and the sentiment of it all moved the church-going wife to tears.
As she sat there gripping her husband’s hand, her emotions “slipped up” on her. [And my friend, if you have ever longed for a child, you know exactly what I’m talking about! Whether it is miscarriage or infertility, or any other circumstance that renders you wanting a child, you can relate to unanticipated moments of emotion.] She was tearful during the video. She wasn’t bitter. She wasn’t sad. She was just reflective of years gone by. In a sense, her husband and she had been a Zechariah and Elizabeth. They had encountered the unfulfilled desire to have children, and they had experienced moments of awe and hope as new life within her womb was discovered.
The video was over within just a few minutes, and Pastor Steve continued God’s message as I wiped away a lingering tear. I listened. I took notes. I enjoyed sweet fellowship with my Father during the service that morning. But through the remainder of Pastor Steve’s message, I began to feel the prompting of the Lord – a calling, if you will, to address the millions of Zechariahs and Elizabeths, many of whom sit among us each Christmas season in splendidly decorated churches, all the while, a baby is a the top of their Christmas wish list.
My dear sister, my dear brother, if this is you – if you are currently facing (or if you have ever faced) unwanted childlessness, this piece is for you. What do I want to say to the scores of men and women who, like Rusty and me, want a child and are having to cope with the unexpected reality of barrenness?
I wished I had some magical formula that I could impart to this struggling sect within our families, our communities, and our churches. But I have no magic to offer. Basically, I feel as if I have three bits of encouragement to extend to you, my friend.
First, I’d like to acknowledge before you – and before the whole world (or maybe the 2,300 folks who read this blog) – that a surety is before us. And it is this … Christmas can be a difficult time of year for those longing for children. It has likely never been publically stated or recognized, but Christmastime can create hardship for couples longing for children. I get that, and you get that.
Culturally, our society couples Christmas with families – and particularly with children. Think about that. Christmas truly is the time of year for families. Holiday commercials feature gleeful children running down stairs on Christmas morning to be greeted by a mom and dad snuggling beside a tree and a sea of packages. The main seasonal event of our churches is the children’s Christmas musical production. It’s wonderful. It’s a huge part of our religious celebration. Undeniably, the holidays have a family and child-focus. I love this tendency of our society, but the family/child emphasis can create moments of regret and sorrow for the barren husband and wife.
Our social traditions of Christmas that center on children and families can complicate issues for the infertile couple, but also, the Scriptural reality – the birth of Baby Jesus – can easily stir the emotions of those longing for children. The Biblical Christmas account itself can lead to tears of disappointment. The story, the account, is glorious. The birth of Christ, God sending His Son to the world, is the most hopeful, redemptive “happening,” if you will, of all time! But at the same time, any storyline of a husband and wife getting to birth, hold, nurture, love, and parent a child can emotionally impact a couple longing for a baby. Yes, it is true. Scenes from a nativity movie, a Christmas card picturing Mary and the Holy Child, even a drive-thru Christmas presentation that casts a pregnant Mary on a donkey can evoke an unexpected emotional response from a barren wife or husband. Christmastime can be a complicated season for those folks wanting a child. My friend, I know that to be true.
Secondly, I want to encourage you with the comfort of knowing you are not alone. We can relate one to another. As I watched the video of Zechariah and Elizabeth (even though it was a re-creation with a modern actor and actress), I could relate to them. I had been there. They had been there. You may have been there. You may be there now. And, we, all as couples struggling with infertility/miscarriage, we get each other. You are not alone. May that truth encourage you.
And finally, my sister, my brother – I want to tenderly remind you that “a child has been born unto” you. You see, this is no ordinary child to which I am referring. He is the Christ Child. Yes, I understand that you may not get to parent a child conceived out of your marital love, but you and I (all of mankind) have a Child, a Son that has been “given unto us.” He is Jesus!
On the dark days when you don’t know how far to go with your procreative medical procedures, you can have a big (not little) talk with Jesus. He is your Wonderful Counselor! During your times of grief, when you have no strength of your own, when you don’t think you can get out of bed to face another day, you can go to Jesus for all the strength you need. He is your Mighty God! When your heart is breaking, and it seems as if even your spouse can’t understand the pain you’re facing, you can crawl into His lap. He is your Everlasting Father! And my dear friend, when the waves of emotion slip up on you and you’re pushed face-to-face into the awareness that you still haven’t gotten your baby, you can turn your tear-filled eyes upon this Child and be comforted. He is your Prince of Peace!
You see, my dear sister, my dear brother, I know this to be true. I’ve been there. I am there. I can sit on the fourth row, shed a few tears, and be blessed by a Christmas sermon because my loving Heavenly Father sent His Son, His Only Son – my Baby Jesus – to die for me. As I hold the solid hand of Rusty and as I watch Elizabeth learn she will have a baby, my heart is being held by the nail-pierced nails of my Redeemer, the miracle child given unto me – and unto you, and unto all the world.
Be blessed this Christmas, my friend! I love you!
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called
The Mighty God,
The Everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.”