Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tidings of Comfort

by Barb Early

It’s the time of the year when often we at Inkwell share some of our family Christmas traditions--and that’s what I originally intended to do with this post. But recent events--national, local, and even among my acquaintances have me rethinking that.

It’s been a tough Christmas for many.

Those impacted by hurricane Sandy are trying to rebuild their lives. A community in Connecticut struggles with an inconceivable loss. Families in Webster NY are mourning their firefighters while others who lost their homes to fire scramble to find shelter. And the world reels with the questions of why.

Meanwhile, countless others are spending Christmas in hospitals and at gravesides. Many more passed it in the shadow of intense storms, tornadoes and power outages.

Tragedy, loss, sickness, death, evil in this world. Those things kind of take the Merry out of Christmas. We think of presents stacked in a closet awaiting children who will never get them. And tables that should be stacked with Christmas dinner, now empty.

I kind of have to kick myself into proper perspective. As much as I tend to aim for the world’s ideal Christmas, Jesus wasn’t born so that we might have the perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas--large twinkling Christmas tree laden with gifts, turkey roasting in the oven, a fire in the hearth, and family gathered around the table. Jesus was born because without Him, this world is sick and dark and painful and needs a Savior.

I’m not saying we can’t have and enjoy those traditional Christmas trappings. And if Christmas found you healthy and happy, gathered with family and friends rejoicing--what blessings. But it most likely has not always been so, nor will it always be so.

Even as we sang Christmas carols this year, I was reminded of this fact. Have you ever noticed we don’t tend to sing all the verses of even the most famous of Christmas carols? Some are omitted--often considered the “downer verses.” Yet these have the most power to minister to hurting hearts by reminding us why the Savior was born. While we were yet in our sins--He loved us enough to come and die in our place.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

Who is He in Yonder Stall?

Who is He that stands and weeps
At the grave where Lazarus sleeps?
Who is He the gathering throng
Greet with loud triumphant song?

Lo! at midnight, who is He
Prays in dark Gethsemane?
Who is He on yonder tree
Dies in grief and agony?

Who is He that from the grave
Comes to heal and help and save?
Who is He that from His throne
Rules through all the world alone?

Thou Didst Leave thy Throne

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.

What Child is This

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

We Three Kings

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

It’s this view of Christmas that lets us see past the current woes to the eternal. 

We don’t see the darkness, but the light shining through the darkness. 

We don’t see slain children in a classroom, but little ones nestled in the arms of a loving Savior. 

We don’t see our loved ones lying in a coffin, but “see” them walking on streets of gold. And we see a future free from strife, war, pain, and sin.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.

O tidings of comfort and joy.

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book format from White Rose Publishing in December 2011. You can learn more about her writing at


  1. I just love this, Barb. I love when we sing all the verses in church. These are the verses that make me see the writer sitting at their desk, hearts full of both sorrow and joy. I believe the words came out of just those dark valley moments we are experiencing now.

    Often, Christmas is a sad time because we have put so much emphasis on the perfection of one day. So, if family is not arriving with arms laden with gifts... or there's no photo-worthy moment at dinner... we tend to see it as some failure.

    we are told to celebrate Christmas every day in our hearts (a tall order - for cheeriness, I think!) when in fact it's just thanking God that Jesus was born TO SAVE US ALL FROM SATAN'S POWER. So does it matter if the Marvin's haven't had their Christmas yet? no! I'm not tied to expectations of the holiday. Christ's birth doesn't change if our traditions remain 'flexible'.

  2. Thanks, Deb. True.

    This morning I was thinking about the verse that says those that are whole don't need a physician. It's those who are hurting that need a Christmas the most. And Christmas can be whenever Christ is born and shines in our hearts.

  3. Thanks, Barb. That was a good reminder. I had a nice Christmas day, but overall this Christmas season has been rougher than normal.

  4. Very good post, Barb. I know some people who need to read something like this. If only they would come too find the daily encouragement they so desperately need.

  5. We do tend to be a little insular at the Holidays. Me and Mine. I was feeling a little down because one grandson is moving to West Virginia and won't be at our Christmas this year when the family gathers in on Saturday. His first missed Christmas in 21 years. Another grandson is serving in Afghanistan this year. You post reminded me of all I have to be thankful for.


  6. Dina--

    I actually had a nice Christmas too, but my thoughts were continually being drawn to those who were struggling--and the comfort available in Christ. If anything, it made Christmas even better for me, making me more mindful of the important things.

  7. Suzie--

    I know. Imagine how Jesus must feel. If only they would come to Him.

  8. Sharon--Grandchildren are important! I can imagine getting a little blue missing them. Prayers for both, especially the one serving overseas.

  9. Beautiful post, Barb. Christmas was strange this year. But the hope of mankind remains the same.

  10. So true, Lisa. The same yesterday, today, and forever.


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