It’s important for me to speak first for those who don’t feel the wonder of Christmas. Please don’t judge them harshly for that. A woman who is a dear friend of mine, a skilled photographer, web designer and writer wrote on her blog that she is $700 short of paying for her rent. Her landlord is threatening eviction. This soul dearly loved and valued by God and me is pouring out her heart to her readers. She has been raped, emotionally, sexually and physically abused. No one has paid her for her work. She has been scammed by the telecommuting work she did. If any of you can offer this woman work could you please contact me at my email address firstname.lastname@example.org. I will pass along any opportunities for her to get in touch with you about.
I know from deeply hurtful personal experience how tough and dehumanizing it is to risk reaching out to others for help. I have over $700 each month in medication costs the Ontario government doesn’t cover. I hope that will change not merely for me, but for all who deal with this injustice. Appeals I have made to governments and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care come back either citing their political platform or giving me policy statements we are already all too painfully aware of.
Many of you know I have an extremely rare autoimmune disease called mastocytosis. For those who aren’t aware of this, the simplest explanation is that it’s like having an allergy on steroids. That’s what my wife, Karen, tells people. I describe it as an out of control neighborhood block party. We all need mast (immune, systemic and organ) cells to survive. In my case, I have way too much of a good thing. These mast cells will keep increasing over the course of my lifetime.
We are in the process of getting a referral to the specialist who in 2012 thought I had monoclonal mast cell activation. That means there was only one mast cell lesion from which the disease was spreading. A skin punch biopsy in 2014 confirmed that I have mastocytosis. Since that time I have formed several lesions on my legs, under my arms, and on my torso. That’s concerning because it means the disease is worsening.
When one has a mast cell attack that can go anaphylactic these cells that are irregular in shape and size degranulate. The body treats these irregular mast cells as foreign invader like the character Darth Vader in Star Wars. These cells are the enemy to be destroyed. The body releases huge amounts of histamine. The body can’t tolerate that so to get rid of these unwanted mast cells it dumps toxic contents all throughout one’s body. This can lead to anaphylaxis, one’s blood pressure bottoming out or skyrocketing into the stroke zone or having a heart attack, and damage one’s organs. In some, their heart just stops beating. In some cases, the proliferation of mast cells can develop into leukemia or mast cell tumors. It can be such a depleting disease that robs a person of their energy and will to live. Some who can’t endure the physical and emotional suffering any longer commit suicide. I do understand that’s not an uplifting thing to say on Christmas Day, but it’s true.
I consider myself one of the blessed ones because I was diagnosed. Sadly, many live in this cloud of judgment by some in the medical profession and among family, friends, and colleagues because they haven’t been diagnosed yet. An internal medicine specialist scolded me. He told me he needed to start removing medications because 95% of the doctors said I don’t have the disease. I do understand and know from my training, experience, and education that there are those who con the system and say they are sick when they’re not. I’m not one of them. All those doctors and specialists who falsely judged me were wrong. What was the most hurtful of all the things said to me is when a friend I have known for over 36 years said to many of my friends, “You need to stop helping Kevin. He’s lazy.” Those who really know me will tell you nothing is further from the truth. If anything family, friends and colleagues tell me I do far too much. That is the damage abuse can do. You keep feeling you have to prove your worthiness to others. You feel you have to demonstrate why you should be allowed to continue to live. It is an offense to God that there are those who believe in the Darwinist theory of survival of the fittest. The weak are regarded as a drain on society. While most wouldn’t admit to it they are like the miserly and covetous sinner described by Charles Dickens in his book A Christmas Carol.
God calls me to forgive all those who have deeply wounded me with their words and their inaction in our time of need. Honestly, I’m still on the journey of forgiving them. There is a lot to forgive.
My friend facing eviction and I are terrified to ask for help. One time I did 80% of those I thought were my friends told me to remove them from my contact list. My friend risked an awful lot to be open with her readers about her situation. I pray that this woman so full of an illuminating beauty inside and out, a gift of love to thousands of people through her writing and photography, will get the help she needs to pay her outstanding rent. I pray also people out there will give her work that lets her talents shine. Paulette needs to know that there are people who still care, who give back to her even some of what she has given so much to others.
I say without reservation Paulette would be an asset to any company or organization.
Many who are poor, addicted, abused, homeless and those who feel deep loneliness don’t always feel the joy of Christmas. Please don’t think that there is something deficient in either their character or faith because they are sad. For many Christmas is a time to endure, especially for those whose loved ones died during the Christmas season or any holiday. Waves of grief come over them as they try to deal with their loss. I lost my mother three days before Christmas in 1992 after having three heart attacks and infection of her brain from a disease called encephalitis. The neurologist said she was 90% brain dead. After three heart attacks my stepfather, George, with my guidance, made the painful decision to not have Mom revived.
As you celebrate Christmas, I pray you will reach out to someone you know who desperately needs your help. Listening to their pain may be all that they will accept or need. When you do that you are living the true message of the wonder that is Christmas. Christmas is all about love. It’s that outstretched hand of love, and acceptance in a world filled with far too much hate.
Now, I would like to share some thoughts with those who believe in the wonder of Christmas.
When looking for Christmas carols to listen to, I came across Perry Como singing Christ is born.You know how you listen to a song that gives you goosebumps all over. Its message reaches right into your soul. Such is the case with hearing Christ is born. I thought how in the hustle and bustle that is associated with Christmas, the buying of that perfect gift, preparing the perfect Christmas dinner, the pursuit of that illusive perfect Christmas, an important message is being lost. It is the very heart of what Christmas is all about for me as a Christian – that beautiful gift of the baby Jesus in a manger – love. Isn’t that what Christmas should be about? It’s not about the presents though they are a joy to receive; it’s about the presence of God in our lives.
Here is the link to Perry Como singing Christ is born. The words and music are by Domenico Bartolucci and Ray Charles.
When I hear Perry Como singing. I feel like he is speaking to me. The boy choir gives the song its angelic feel. They touch me deep inside as if an angelic choir is singing to me. These boys still full of wonder and joy say to my spirit and mind, “Don’t lose the wonder of Christmas. Don’t allow the darkness in others and this world crowd out the light. We need you to continue to hope and work hard with others building a beautiful world where all people are treated with love, equality, value, and dignity.
Is God saying to your spirit, “I want you to help someone in need?” See your neighbor. See your family member, friend or colleague who is hurting, who is struggling to not lose hope Hear that one suffering soul crying out for help. Please don’t just say you love the stranger. Do something about it. That’s how the message that Christ is born stays alive because it breathes; it lives inside of you.
A dear friend of mine in one of his term papers for the seminary course Christology wrote about the humanity of Christ. He said that baby, Jesus, cried, felt physical and emotional pain, and knew what it was like to receive his mother Mary’s love. What a beautiful gift that must have been for Jesus as his mother nursed the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes! He felt the embracing presence of her love.
In her own way Mary was a world changer. She gave birth to a message of love that nothing yet devised by humankind has extinguished. That is something that never ceases to amaze me.
My friend also mentioned in his paper how Christ was divine. We need to be careful that in focusing on His humanity we don’t lose sight of the fact that Jesus was also God’s Son. He has the ability to forgive and cleanse us of our sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9, NASB).
While not preached about that much because of its unpopularity we need to also remember that Christ who was loved by many, was also rejected because of the power of His message – that love is stronger than hate. Many of the learned and those in government feared this man because His message was reaching too many people. They couldn’t allow that to continue, so they conspired to have Jesus arrested, subjected to a kangaroo court daring to have the unmitigated gall to call itself fair. Pontius Pilate finding no fault in him let the people decide what would happen to Christ. He washed his hands of any involvement in Jesus’ death.
I know that message isn’t one you hear much of at Christmas. Of course, it’s all about adoring and worshiping Jesus. It’s all about loving others. It’s all about helping those in need. It’s all about being that listening ear to those who are going through a rough time. But what we as Christians must not forget is that the love Christ grew up to give during His three years of recorded public ministry, came at the cost of His death for our sins. I don’t hear those well-known words of John 3:16 much these days. Let its message sink deep inside your soul though you have heard it thousands upon thousands of times until this time when a watered-down Christianity is deemed to be more palatable. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17, KJV).
John Donne wrote, “Love divine all loves excelling, and makes one little room an everywhere.” It’s something I often say to Karen in expressing my love for her. The love we have for one another is rooted in seeking to have God be at the center of it all. There are times in the daily challenges of life we get it wrong. Our Father reveals to us how much more our love for Him and one another needs to mature. Love isn’t the feel-good all over thing you see in the movies or read in books. It can become trying. It can end up revealing uncomfortable truths about ourselves, our warts and blemishes. If you think about it another way love changes into something beautiful not because it’s perfect, but moreover because we see ourselves as a masterpiece under divine construction. Like the painting of an artist who hasn’t yet completed it, love is something that evolves into something wonderful as it takes its shape until the painting is done. God is our divine artist. He created us. I’m sure nothing would please Him more than for us to say, “Lord, thank you for making me so beautifully and wonderfully! I pray when Your painting is done, You’ll be pleased with how it all came out.”
True love calls us to forgive others. Jesus calls us to forgive those who have deeply wounded us by their actions or inaction. Ephesians 4:32 says in the J.B. Phillips New Testament, “Let there be no more resentment, no more anger or temper, no more violent self-assertiveness, no more slander, and no more malicious remarks, Be kind to each other, be understanding. Be as ready to forgive others as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” In essence, by being kind, we are in a practice mode of becoming more Christ-like in our character. It‘s a process. In time we get better at this thing called loving others.
Karen recalls how a client gave wise advice to a woman who couldn’t forgive the abuse done to her. “Shelley, you don’t know what he did to me.” Shelley said, “But, Betty, you have to be kind.” Abuse leaves its stinging wounds in those who have experienced it. Only the balm of love can heal it. Only that outstretched hand of compassion can mend that heart-broken soul.
Only the love of God in our hearts for others can reach those who have been abused. That is the wonder of Christmas – the message of love for others that should be within us not just at Christmas but every day.
When I was in Grade nine, I studied the violin. In reflection, I felt sorry for my mother and stepfather. They had to listen to the initial screeching sounds coming from the violin I brought home from school to practice with. They would later tell me that’s why they played records at the highest volume on their stereo. It was to drown out the noise I was making. I brought ti home playing it every day. My poor parents. That’s how God works. He gives us so many practice opportunities to get loving others right. He knows we will make all kinds of blunders in our relationships. God knows I’ve made a lot of them myself. What our Father doesn’t want us to lose sight of is that He loves us as we do our practice runs at loving others.
Watching the albatross trying so desperately to fly is not a thing of grace, but eventually, that clumsy albatross gets it right, When it finally takes flight, there is nothing that can compare to it in how it soars through the sky with such grace.
I leave you with these thoughts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to reflect upon.
“And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
“God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives..”
―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger
I pray the wonder of Christmas will remain alive in your heart. Reach out to those who don’t feel that. Be there for them. Be that listening ear. Love them as Christ loves you. Remember, He loved you so much that He offered up His one and only Son for your sins. That’s a whole lot of love.
Parents, I will pray for a spirit of enduring all things as you as you hear your son or daughter practicing their instrument. They are reminding you what it means to love them.
Karen, my love, thanks for helping with this piece. It is the second greatest joy next to my salvation that God brought you into my life. He does give the best gifts!
Dr. Kevin James Osborne, Psy D., D.Sc., D.D., is the Vice-President of Institutional and Mission Development for St. James the Elder University. He is a chaplain with Holy Catholic Church International. Dr. Kevin Osborne feels God is leading him to study more about theology, music, writing, and counseling. Dr. Karen Osborne D.Sc. in Psychology is a counselor and a writer. Our mission field is wherever God puts us for His glory. Below, is our counseling web site. If you feel we can help you, we are only a phone call away at 1-705-316-0725. You can reach us also by emailing us at these email addresses:
Here is our website.