This is a special time of year – one in which we all wish to make Christmas memories with family and friends.
At this time of year it is good and right to celebrate, but so many of us are missing those loved-ones we’ve lost, others are single and wanting a family to share it with, and yet others are separated or divorced or relationships are strained. And life is just hard! For many, it is difficult to watch others be together.
The pain can be intense and real. Those elusive, longed for Christmas memories…
Christmas-time can be a very dark time. Maybe for some of you, it is the darkest time.
And Corrie ten Boom‘s words will help…
Corrie’s Christmas Memories
(excerpt from Corrie’s Christmas Memories, Chapter 4, page 54-57)
“Now I am going to tell you how Betsie and I celebrated Christmas in Holland right before the war. Rations were tight and everyone was hard pressed.
We worked like a real team and often were the speakers at eight or ten Christmas feasts. In clubs, Sunday schools, hospitals, military groups, and churches – whenever we got a chance.
The Christmas treats were usually the same – Christmas bread with a bit of powdered sugar on it and raisins. There was an orange for every child, too. At that time there were no sweet ones in the whole of Holland, and I still remember the sour taste!
But it was a joy – a special Christmas joy. Then a cup of hot cocoa. And whenever it was possible, a Christian booklet and a text for the wall at home with birds and flowers around a Bible word.
Most of the time we arranged activities in this way: At the first feast Betsie told the Christmas story of Luke 2, and I told a Christmas story. At the second one, we did the opposite – Betsie told a story, and I the story.
In our watchmaking business, it was very busy those Christmas days. I can remember that when we went to the feast, tired after a full day, I would count for myself: “Number four. Five more evenings – and then we are through Christmas!”
I knew that was wrong, and I prayed, “Lord, give me the miracle that I won’t get tired but enjoy every Christmas feast, even if it is number ten. Should it not mean joy for everyone that You were born in Bethlehem? So Betsie and I must feel joy at being Your channel.”
God answered that prayer, and all the years we did it, that miracle happened.
Now I want to tell you about a happy and a sad Christmas in my life.
Christmas was a feast in our Beje home. Mother and the aunts had a gift for making it as colorful and happy as possible. I remember the holly and the mistletoe – the Christmas table with the red ribbons. Sometimes even a little Christmas tree.
Tante Jans always gave her soldiers a Christmas book and the bookstore sent us a great number from which to choose the best ones. Even as a child I remember the joy of reading through and looking at all those books.
The climax of the feast in the Beje was when we were enjoying Christmas Eve stories and the singing of carols.
Tante Jans could tell a story so beautifully that nobody could stop listening to her. I remember the real Christmas event was clearly stressed by her and Father, who read the Bible from a booklet where you could read not only Luke but also the other Gospels – Matthew 2 following Luke 2, verse 20.
All the happenings that followed each other as one great story. Both Father and Tante Jans made it so clear to us that Christmas was for all of us. For me.
Jesus came for me. Jesus was my friend, my Saviour.
Then, it was Christmas, 1944. Betsie had died. I was in a hospital barracks in Ravensbruck [a concentration camp for helping to hide some Jews].
Dark it was in my heart, and darkness was around me.
There were Christmas trees in the street between the barracks. Why, I don’t know. They were the saddest Christmas trees I ever saw in my life.
I am sure it was with the purpose of blaspheming that they had thrown dead bodies of prisoners under the Christmas trees.
I tried to talk to the people around me about Christmas, but they mocked, ridiculed, and sneered at whatever I said. At last, I was just quiet. It was in the middle of the night that suddenly I heard a child crying and calling,”Mommy! Come to Oelie. Oelie feels so alone.”
I went to her and saw a child not so young, but feeble-minded.
“Oelie, Mommy cannot come, but do you know who is willing to come to you? That is Jesus.”
The girl was lying on a bed next to the window, not far from my bed. Although Oelie was completely emaciated from lack of food, she had a sweet face, beautiful eyes and wavy hair. It was so touching to hear her call for her mother. Oelie had been operated on and the incision on her back was covered by a thin bandage of toilet paper.
That night I told this poor child about Jesus. How He came into the world as a little baby – how He came to save us from our sins.
“The Lord Jesus loves Oelie and has borne her punishment on the cross. Now Oelie may go to heaven, and Jesus is there right now. He is getting a little house ready for Oelie.” Later I asked her what she remembered of what I told her.
“What is the little house like?” I asked.
“It is very beautiful. There are no wicked people as in Ravensbruck – only good people and angels. And Oelie will see Jesus there.”
The child added, “I will ask Jesus to make me brave when I have pain. I will think of the pain that Jesus suffered to show Oelie the way to heaven.” Then Oelie folded her hands; together we gave thanks.
In the last weeks especially, the hurts and tragedies of others have weighed so heavily upon my heart as if they were my own. I am praying for you, because I, too, have experienced intense sorrow.
Let this be a gentle reminder that there are many who are praying for YOU, myself and others, who have been called to minister the love and mercy and grace of Jesus Christ – friends you may not be aware of.
You are NOT alone and are loved by the Savior of the world.
Call to Him now, and He will draw you to Himself. He will take you into His arms.
He may not take the pain away, but He will help you bear it.
He has done it for ALL who call upon His Name.
You can find a used hardback copy of Corrie’s Christmas Memories on Amazon for well under a dollar plus shipping!
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous [this doesn’t mean perfect people, but those who trust in Jesus] run to it and are safe.” ~Prov. 18: 10, italics mine
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
~ Corrie ten Boom
Thanks for reading!