thomas schwartz

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit”-Psalm 51:12.

The Christmas season had just begun. Shoppers rushing to and from stores were shocked when a teenage girl – who was dirty, underfed, unkempt and appeared to be a runaway – collapsed on the sidewalk in the large city. Several people called 911, and she soon was taken to a nearby hospital.

To save her life, the young woman first was admitted to the intensive care unit. After her condition stabilized several days later, she was moved to a regular room. Slowly but surely, she continued making progress in the restoration of her health.

Late one afternoon, carolers from a church in the neighborhood visited the teen girl’s room. They sang several traditional hymns telling the story of Jesus’ birth. Before they left, the pastor of the congregation approached her and asked, “Do you know Jesus, about whom we were singing?”

In a barely audible voice, she quietly replied, “I used to go to Sunday school and heard about him there. But I don’t remember much of what I learned.” Reminding her of the story and meaning of Jesus’ birth and God’s divine plan for the ages, the young woman believed on Jesus as her savior.

The day before Christmas, the teen girl’s new foster parents were to come and take her to her new home. One of the hospital’s employees came to her room to help her prepare for their arrival. “You’re well now, so it’s time for you to leave,” she said.

“Yes,” the young woman happily replied. “But I’m not leaving by myself. Jesus is going with me. Do you know Jesus?” “Yes, yes, I do,” the employee answered in a grouchy tone. “Then why aren’t you filled with joy like me?” she asked. “If you know Jesus, you should be happy!”

David cried out to God, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Despite – or perhaps even because of – the “Christmas spirit,” some struggle with feeling joyful at this time of year. Their hearts are heavy and burdened by sadness and sorrows.

A friend of writer Frederica Mathewes-Green struggled with a rebellious teenage child. She then related this common human experience to God’s parental love: “God longs over us as over a lost and contemptuous child, a child at the edge of gaping danger, ignorant, sulky, rude. We spurn, laugh, ignore him, pinch each other, boast ‘I don’t know him,’ slam the door. He waits. We ridicule him, trivialize his gifts, preen and bicker. And he waits.”

Remembering what Christmas really and truly is about can restore to us the joy of God’s salvation. God, who is our divine parent, does not wish to be God without us. In amazing grace, God sent Jesus, who left the prerogatives and privileges of eternity to enter our earthly realm as a dependent, helpless infant. In that baby, born to poor people in an animal’s stable, God announces to humanity, “I love you!”

You may feel forgotten or forsaken by God. Rest assured that neither is true! Whatever your heartache or heartbreak, He is walking beside you during this temporary earthly journey we call life. The same God who met an abandoned teenage girl in a hospital room is the same God who will meet you however you are and wherever you are – and restore you to the joy of salvation.

And that can make this Christmas a very merry one for you indeed!

Let us pray: God of love, all too often we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by the strains and stresses of daily life. Fill our hearts and minds once again with the joy of your salvation that we may enjoy a very merry Christmas. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.