Shipwrecked at the Stable

Christmas is STILL at the Stable

By Julie Woodley

“Jesus Christ is of no importance unless he is of supreme importance.”

Rabbi Abraham Herschel

Some of you may remember that 14 years ago at Christmas, I was in the middle of thyroid cancer treatments.  I was in isolation from my radiation treatments, and I wrote a Christmas letter called “Christmas at the Stable”

I spoke of the desperate place I was in, filled with fear of life for tomorrow or eternity. I experienced a tidal wave of emotions as I faced the deepest, darkest questions of my life.  I felt “shipwrecked at the stable,” lost in the cosmos, adrift on the open sea, clinging white-knuckled to one solitary plank.  

It was so very odd that all of the past thoughts of Christmas (the tinsel, the special Christmas teas which I deeply loved, pulling my hair up and wearing a velvet dress, buying random gifts for the garbage man, teachers etc.) all of these trappings of Christmas just didn’t seem to matter anymore.  I became captivated, transfixed with the pearl of great price who is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Everything else felt cheap, fake, of no value.  I became overwhelmed with the awe and wonder of Christ  Himself. Over and over I would say, “I want to see Jesus.” You see, I had nothing of myself to rely on anymore. My physical stamina was gone. I couldn’t even lift my head up off the pillow or go to the kitchen to help myself, much less go Christmas shopping.  My bed became my ship adrift on the sea of my Lord. My greatest worship became my tears and yes, I began to see Jesus in everything -my tears, my dreams. He took every thought and part of who I was captive.

My life became filled with intense desire. I love the glitter of Christmas and the joy in my children’s faces as they open their gifts and experience the love of God together in our family.  So YES! I am so happy to be ALIVE, full of joy and gratitude over the top.  But the answer is also no, everything has so changed. I may be physically stronger now (praise God!) but in other ways, I am still so very “shipwrecked.” I find that the shipwrecked have little in common with the landlocked. The landlocked have their own security systems -their big homes, credit cards, self-interests, and investments intact. They never really find themselves lost.  But yes, I am still shipwrecked, maybe like some of you are. Please, let’s cling to the solitary plank with desperation together with vulnerability and helplessness. We know there is absolutely nothing any of us could do to remain afloat. We become like dependent children who are incompetent to stay adrift without Jesus. 

The greatest gift I got that year was on Christmas eve when I was declared cancer FREE!!!!  

Please read the story below. It is one of my Christmas favorites. It is my lifelong wish that you have a joyful, loving Christmas.

"In 1880, the day before Christmas, Richard Ballenger’s mother in Anderson, South Carolina was busy wrapping packages and asked her young son to shine her shoes.  Soon, with the proud smile that only seven-yes-old can muster, he presented the shoes for inspection. His mother was so pleased, she gave him a quarter.

On Christmas morning as she put on the shoes to go to church, she noticed a lump in one shoe.  She took it off and found a quarter wrapped in paper.  Written on the paper in a child’s scrawl were the words, 'I done it for love.'"

When the final curtain falls, each of us will be the sum of our choices throughout life, the sum of the appointments we kept and the appointments we didn’t keep.  The glory of the shipwrecked will be that they “done it for love." May you belong to the shipwrecked this Christmas. Hop aboard and let us love together. You're not alone, Beloved!

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