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What a friend we have in Jesus!

In 1844 a young Irishman, Joseph Scriven, had completed his college education and returned home to marry his sweetheart. As he was traveling to meet her on the day before the planned wedding, he came upon a horrible scene – his beautiful fiancée tragically drowned in a creek after falling off her horse.

Later, Scriven moved to Canada and eventually fell in love again, only to experience devastation once more when she became ill and died just weeks before their marriage. For the second time, this humble Christian felt the loss of the woman he loved.

The following year, he wrote a poem to his mother in Ireland that described the deep friendship with Jesus he had cultivated in prayer through the hardships of his life. Now you know the horrible events that inspired words of comfort we find in this cherished hymn of the church. The first verse reads, “What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer.” (adapted from 101 Hymn Stories by Ken Osbeck).

Last week I challenged us to focus on growing Christmas in our soul rather than focusing on the Christmas traditions that we won’t be able to enjoy because of covid and quarantines. In all my reading on the emotional and spiritual effects of the quarantine it is a lot like experiencing grief during the holidays. People going through grief, especially during the holidays go through sadness and depression, anxiety about the future, and very real financial concerns, just to name a few similarities. If you are going through grief right now, plus the quarantine it can be overwhelming. One of the most important things we can do to help us heal from grief is to be around other people, and of course, that is greatly limited.

One of the traditions that is so much a part of our Christmas celebrations is the Christmas Eve Candlelight service. Given all the restrictions our congregation is not going to try to have a candlelight service. I was talking to our church technology guru about getting everyone to video themselves with their family lighting a candle and then sharing a Christmas greeting. We will put all the family videos together into a video version of the candlelight service. What did he think?

His response was instructive. He has found that his business clients are trying to find a way to thank their employees for their hard work, and their technology solutions to do this are not working except if they do one thing. They have to communicate to their employees that this is not an attempt to capture the Christmas magic of the past using technology. This is a new way of celebrating Christmas for this year given the limitations of our times. Unmet expectations will doom all technology solutions to our spiritually and emotionally meaningful Christmas traditions unless we cast them as a new and temporary thing.

I looked back at a favorite site for ideas for dealing with grief at Christmas that may help all of us (https://whatsyourgrief.com/64-tips-grief-at-the-holidays/). In looking over the 64 ideas for helping us get through a covid Christmas they will be helpful for any of us experiencing grief of loss, grief of quarantines, or both! These 64 ideas were offered by people going through grief during the holidays that helped them. If you are grieving or praying for a loved one that is grieving read through the list, and see what speaks to you.

My hope and prayer for you is that covid will not hurt your Christmas celebrations. They will only be different, and draw you closer to God. God is the source of healing in all circumstances as we read in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” At this time, we can get mad at Jesus and be bitter or we can run into Jesus’ arms and find healing. I offer a small list of spiritual healing tips that I think will be crucial to your experience of your soul growing this Christmas.

Pray. Pray. Pray. Grow closer to God through prayer, for He is the source of all healing.

Study these scriptures, and keep reading your Bible: Romans 8:28, John 14:1-7, Psalm 23, I Corinthians 15, Revelation 21:1-8, and Joshua 1:9.

Read Psalm 147 and make a list of all the things you are thankful for and pray through that list every day.

May God bless you and your loved ones growth of your soul through this blessed Christmas season.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.com.