My mom read a very sad Christmas story to us almost every year when we were children about the little match girl. Each year I hoped that she would be saved in the end.... but her version was always ended in sadness. I stared at those same pictures..snow, cold, and a poor girl who never found one person to take her in and warm her life.
I recently re-read the classic published by Hans Christian Anderson in 1845
Here is the summary of the story in Wikipedia:
On a cold New Year's Eve, a poor young girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is already shivering from cold and early hypothermia, and she is walking barefoot having lost her shoes. Still, she is too afraid to go home, because her father will beat her for not selling any matches, and also as the cracks in the house can't keep out the cold wind. The girl takes shelters in a nook or alley and sits down.
The girl lights the matches to warm herself. In their glow she sees several lovely visions, including a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. The girl looks skyward and sees a shooting star; she then remembers her dead grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone is dying and is going to Heaven. As she lights the next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. She strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother alive for as long as she can.
After running out of matches the child dies, and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the child dead in the nook, frozen with a smile on her face, and guess the reason for the burnt-out matches beside her. They feel pity for her, although they had not shown kindness to her before her death. They have no way of knowing about the wonderful visions she saw before her death or how gloriously she and her grandmother are now celebrating the New Year in Heaven.
So, the question is WHY did my mom read that story to us year after year, despite us desperately crying NO like we all do when whining about a request we see as torture?
My mom understood that while it was a sad story, but it wasn't a tragic story.
In a home of some Christmas regrets, there was a deeper truth that was beyond me in the moment, but it took root and faithfully bore fruit in my heart many years after my mom passed away.
In fact, I think the beauty and application of that truth is lost on us if Christmas is just getting everything on our list.
'Getting everything' wasn't the Christmas past I remember. We always got some GREAT things, but it wasn't an overflowing bounty. And in my eagerness to try out the new shiny toy tucked behind the tree, I never noticed that mom and dad never really got anything for themselves.
My mom cried every Christmas when she finished the story, another reason I probably fought it like the plague.
But her tears came from more than the genuine love she had for people without means.
Christmas reminds us of the painful times, it is lament of the loss of childhood innocence, and it can be hard and cold in a world of darkness and loneliness.
But the little girl has a smile on her face in the end. What is that about?
True hope is one that carries us beyond the darkest day of human existence.
If death is the end, then Christmas is, in a sense, an empty celebration. Gifts disappear...... do you remember what you got last Christmas? The one before?
But Christmas is about a gift that came wrapped in poverty and darkness...but caused the angels to sing in exalted praise.
The birth of the Christ-child unleashed violence and over 2,000 years later bombs still fall on children in places like Aleppo and we still wipe away tears of pain and regret.
But there is a warm welcome waiting for those who walk to the other side clinging to the simple but glorious promise of why the Child came to earth.
My mom is not crying this Christmas.. her body is perfect, her home is full and warm. She is basking in eternal joy and sunshine.
Neither is Granny, neither is Lee, neither is Terry..... neither is Mr Stegall or Coach Farris.
So yes, I sometimes cry at Christmas....but that is OK with me.... the gift that God gave I will never forget....
If that is all He ever gave me, I would still have reason to praise His Holy name for all eternity.
But He gave me grace upon grace, a beautiful family, and we will have some great times very soon.
AND because of Jesus .... I know that this is just a small taste of what is to come.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Post a Comment