Let me share with you about a difficult Christmas that I had and how I was able to celebrate it. It happened a long time ago and all is well for me this Christmas, but it is still one of my most precious Christmas memories.
As the Christmas season of 1993 approached, I started to feel depressed about the thought of Christmas. My husband, Jing, died that year and I did not feel like celebrating at all. “What do I have to celebrate?” I would say to myself. “What blessings do I have to be grateful for?"
One early morning, after another one of those seemingly endless sleepless nights, in my heart, I sensed the answer to my question - "What do I have to celebrate?" I realized that indeed, I had every reason to celebrate, and I had much to be grateful for. Christmas is much more than gifts, decorations and happy get-togethers. Christmas is about how God loved us so much that He sent His beloved Son to be born as man! To be God with us. Because of this I had the Hope of eternal life for my husband. The Lord and His promise of eternal life had been my greatest consolation and comfort. I wondered, "Where would I be and how could I survive this greatest trial if Christ were not born?" How grateful I was of this realization.
Then, the thought of a trip to Singapore sometime in November of 1989 came to my mind. The Christmas decorations were already up and at the time, I marveled at the many lights, at how beautifully they had decorated the shops and streets. And as I remembered the awe I felt while looking at all those decorations, in my heart, it seemed God was telling me that the most beautiful decorations and celebrations in the world are nothing compared to the beauty and splendor of Heaven. I thought, how wonderful it must be to celebrate Christmas with the birthday celebrant (which was what my late husband, Jing was going to do)! After this time of reflection, my heart, which was filled with dread and gloom, was suddenly filled with such joy. This is the real meaning of Christmas, I thought. And that first Christmas without Jing (which I dreaded) turned out to be perhaps the most meaningful I’ve ever had.
Reflecting on the joy I felt at that time, I realized God had given me the gift of true joy, a joy not based on circumstances, but just a gift. Perhaps, it is a joy we cannot experience when all is well, because then, we would have a reason to be joyful. But when we feel that our reason to be joyful is gone and yet we are able to experience joy, then we know, it is a gift and God can truly "turn our mourning into dancing" (Psalm 30:11). For me to have experienced this joy strengthens my belief that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). And although we never want to experience trials, this Christmastime experience of mine is precious to me.