Landing in Ramah: Christmas Letter 2016


Christmas 2016

Dear Friends,

I GIVE UP!  This is now my third attempt at writing my Christmas letter. The first time, after I completed it, the computer froze and I had to hard crash the system.  When I did that the letter reverted to a copy that I only had completed about a quarter of it. So, I started again.  The second attempt, I completed it, made sure I saved it, and then I saved it again when I closed it, just to make sure.  My next step was to forward it to Monique (the secretary) who was going to print it off for me.  When I went to attach it to the email, it was gone from the computer. Vanished! Not even the original document was there any more. IT WAS GONE!  For thirty minutes I vainly attempted to try and find that file, to no avail.  I grabbed the edges of my computer, with the thought of hurling the machine toward the floor.  Fortunately, I did not make that short-sited decision, but instead, from the depths of my soul, a noise began to rumble and I screamed a primordial yell of frustration. I think it still may be hanging somewhere over Callander.  By this time, I had to go pick up Jenn from work.  It was the culmination of an awful day, a terrible week and months of pent up frustration.

When I picked up Jenn from work, I explained to her all that had transpired that day and she said, “It seems clear to me, God’s telling you not to send that Christmas letter.”  It’s not that it was a bad letter.  I actually liked it.  It was witty and funny.  It had a positive message. It was a good letter.  But it wasn’t the letter I was supposed to send.  (I do have a hard copy of it, so I may post it on the church webpage) It didn’t truly reflect where my heart is.  It was like most things about Christmas: Fake.  We try desperately to stir up some state of emotional euphoria called the Christmas Spirit.  But honestly, everything surrounding Christmas has been a chore for me this year.  Putting up the Christmas lights, decorating the tree, preparing any thoughts…it’s all been drudgery.  It sounds like I’m depressed, but I’m not.  I’ve been there before and bought that T-shirt.  This is something different, something a little more insidious, a bit harder to label.  I would call it shattered expectations.   I think Charlie Brown had the same issues when he told Linus in the famous Christmas special.charlesbrown

“I think there must be something wrong with me. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”(italics mine)

Some of us feel guilt because, like Charlie Brown, we don’t feel the way we are supposed to feel.  As I began this third attempt at writing this Christmas letter.  A phrase popped in my head.  I think it’s the message I’m supposed to get out.  What somebody (maybe it’s just one person) needs to hear.  This Christmas, some of you have, and this is the phrase that I got, have “Landed in Ramah”.  Now, some of you are thinking, “That’s it…That’s all you got.”  Let me explain.    There are a number of stories that run in the background of the nativity story.  One of them is a part of the Magi or Wiseman portion of the Christmas narrative.  When the Magi arrive in Jerusalem searching for the “New-born King”, King Herod asks them how long they had been looking for this baby.  They tell him that they have been looking for two years.  Herod sensing a threat to his political power, reacts swiftly and viciously and kills all children in the region, two-years of age and younger.  The Bible speaks of this horrific event in Matthew 2:18. It reiterates a scripture from the book of Jeremiah where another awful event took place before the Jewish people were put into captivity in Babylon.  The verse simply says:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

A voice is heard in Ramah.  It is the sound of women weeping over the loss of their children.  It is the sound of shattered hopes and dreams.  This Christmas I have found myself, “landing in Ramah”.  It is a place where I grieve the loss of dreams and expectations.  It is an ache in the soul that is difficult to find comfort and relief from.   I know that some of you have landed in this place as well.  You have relationships that are fractured and seemingly beyond repair.  You have wayward children, who have thrown away your morals, values and beliefs, you have tried to instill in them.  You have lost or are losing someone and it’s tearing you apart.  You or someone you love have had life-changing circumstances and life may never be the same again.  We have landed in Ramah.

I hope you aren’t in this place.  I hope you are festive, joyful and fully embracing all the many wonders of the season.  But if you, like me, are in this dark place, let me offer you these words.  In the book of Lamentations, which is so named because it is full of laments or expressions of grief and sorrow, is a hope filled scripture that has helped me immensely.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23

First, remember that God’s love for you is constant and consistent. Although we may not sense it or be experiencing it in the fullness that we like, He is there and He is love (It’s His identity). His love is also working in ways that we cannot see. This scripture tells you that if His love wasn’t there and at work, you would be completely consumed and he reminds us that His love never fails.

Second, God’s mercies and grace are new every morning.  He will give you the strength to get through each day.  You do not need to worry about tomorrow or next week, we should trust that God will give us all that we need to get through this day.  As the song writer expressed,

One day at a time sweet Jesus that's all I'm asking from you
Give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.

And last, God is faithful.  I’m thankful for his promise that when he begins a work in my life, he is faithful to complete it.  (Philippians 1:6).  We may not know why everything is happening and how we are going to get through, but God is going to see through you through.

My prayer for you this Christmas and in 2017 is from Romans 15:13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor John

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