December 7, 2012

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Christmas reminds us that life isn’t as it seems

Patti LambIt’s December, and the Christmas cards have begun to arrive. I like the photo cards that showcase friends’ and families’ favorite moments from the past year.

Recently, my cousin visited and saw a friend’s Christmas card hanging up in our kitchen.

It featured a picture of my friend, her husband and their three handsome young sons. The guys looked sharp in their suit jackets and ties. The mom was radiant. Frankly, the photo looked like one of those perfect shots that come displayed in the frame when you buy it at the store.

“Well, don’t they just have it all?” my cousin said, in jest.

Normally, I wouldn’t have divulged this information, but since the two didn’t know each other and lived states apart, I explained.

That photo was taken on the morning of my friend’s dad’s funeral. It’s the only time her husband and sons have ever worn suit jackets. One son’s jacket had to be borrowed from a neighbor. She can never get her family together for a photo—especially one in which they are dressed nicely—so she had a photo taken before they left for the funeral home that morning.

Incidentally, that was the same morning this friend received a call from the electric company advising that their power would be turned off if they didn’t pay their bill. They were behind on some bills because her husband was still without work. My friend’s family had endured some tough months, all of which seemed to be strung together. It was a year laden with misery.

So it was laughable that my cousin thought they were the picture-perfect family and became envious while looking at the photo.

Things aren’t always what they seem, I reminded my cousin.

The Christmas card sat near our Nativity set, which is another example of things not being what they seem. Our king and Savior was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn. Innkeepers should have been tripping all over themselves trying to provide lodging.

Our king was put to death on a cross as if he were a criminal.

In our king’s life and in our own lives, there are constant reminders that God’s kingdom is not of this world.

But I find comfort in Jesus’ words. “In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

God Calling, one of my favorite devotional books, contains a passage that compares life to a mosaic. The broken pieces don’t make sense to us at the time. But later, when we look back on the whole picture, we will see how those broken pieces all fit together to make something beautiful.

God’s truths don’t always make sense on the human plane. Things are not always what they seem.

I love that Christmas offers a message of hope. Great things can come from humble means and unlikely people—like a helpless baby born to an ordinary carpenter and his wife. Glorious endings can have meager beginnings. And the road isn’t always pretty.

My Aunt Dolores, whom I consider a pillar of strength, said something that has stuck with me. Despite all the suffering she has endured with illness, losing a son and losing her husband, she said, “I believe, but I don’t understand.”

In that statement, she summarized the essence of our faith.

Even when we don’t understand, we can’t stop believing. Our lives are works in progress. Our days are pieces of a great mosaic. We believe in the promise of Christmas.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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