manger scene
Encouragement

 A Baby Made the Difference

by Barbara Latta

After my dad died in 2013, my mom had difficulty adjusting to life.

Mom knew the Lord and spent time each morning reading her Bible. But she had never lived alone in her entire life. She grew up with seven brothers and sisters and after marriage she had a husband. Later three children filled the house with noise and activity. When Dad left this earth, her days felt empty. Half of a sixty-one-year marriage was gone.

She sat day after day in her chair looking across the room at the empty space where her lifetime mate spent time on his computer. Days that were previously filled with the buzz of the saw in his workshop now echoed with silence. Each chime of a clock that he built reminded her of the void in the room.

My youngest brother moved in with her so she wouldn’t be alone. My other brother and I both lived in different states, but we did what we could to help with phone calls and visiting when we could. But her moods fluctuated in a seesaw of emotions.

Two years after my dad’s death, a light shone in our family—my granddaughter was born.

This news sparked a change in my mom’s emotions. This was her first and only great-grandchild. But her giddiness mixed with disappointment because she couldn’t imagine how she would ever see this baby in person. Mom lived in Arkansas and due to her health issues, she couldn’t travel. My son and his wife lived in Florida, and with their work schedules, travel was difficult for them too.

Of course, we sent her pictures, but they couldn’t replace the real thing. A digital screen is a poor substitute for an armful of warm, wiggly infant and the fresh scent of baby filling your senses.

My mind whirled with ideas. I wanted Mom’s holiday that year to overrun with joy, so I made plans with my son and daughter-in-law to visit my mother. Through a series of manipulated schedules, we found a way for them to leave and drove to Arkansas together for the grand reveal.

When I told my mother we were coming and that we were bringing the baby, the anticipation of our trip gave Mom hope. The pictures we sent earlier gave her a glimpse of what was coming, and she had a vision to hold on to that encouraged her. Excitement filled her days as the calendar counted down the time of our arrival.

After a long drive, we arrived late at night and walked into her house with a pink-wrapped bundle. When we pulled back the covering, a head full of black hair poked out and big baby-blue eyes stared back at an older face. Mom’s arms reached out to receive a living gift of love. Her dream had come true.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 NKJV*)

My mom felt she had no positive expectations to look forward to because my dad died.  Hundreds of years before Christ was born, the nation of Israel had no positive expectations for their future because they had let their relationship with God die.

They turned their backs on Him, and they suffered the consequences. Years of captivity repaid them for worship of false gods.

They abandoned God, but He did not abandon them. He promised to deliver His people from shackles of slavery and give them a Savior to redeem them from sin. Yearning for a better world and freedom gave them a positive vision to look forward to.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Prophecies gave people the picture of redemption. When they obeyed the Law the correct way, instead of merely lip service, they saw the shadow of their promised Savior. But like the pictures we sent my mom, they weren’t an acceptable replacement for the real thing.

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. (Hebrews 10:1)

A lot of people face depression in December more than any other time. The decorations, music, and happiness of the crowds can remind them of pain. Thoughts in my mom’s mind of her missing decades-long companion dragged her into further despair.

Another part of the population dreads the season due to the stress and pressure of gift-giving. When we don’t focus on the real reason for the holiday, we can feel empty and let down. If the emphasis is only on the secular, we have nothing to anchor our confidence for the future on.

But we can thank our Father for the offering of His swaddled Boy who grew into a Man so He could die for us. When we accept Christ’s sacrifice, we receive life eternal and a joy that will never end. This is the reason for the celebration.

I’m glad we were able to give the personal visit to my mother that Christmas because she died three years later. The happiness this child brought to her life filled my heart with memories that will last forever.

The gift of a baby made a difference for my mother and the gift of God’s baby made a difference for the world. How have you let Him make a difference for you?

Prayer:

Father, thank You for the beautiful offering You presented to the world. Please remind me of how much Christmas reflects the generosity of Your heart as You gave Christ as a baby to us. As I accept His sacrifice, please help me to live in the inheritance He provided and show those around me the difference He makes in my life. Amen.

Questions:

  1. How can you associate Christ’s sacrifice with the reason He was born?
  2. If feelings of despair and dread fill you during holidays, what are the best Scriptures you can rely on for encouragement?
  3. What can help fill you with hope if you have experienced a loss in your life?
  4. How can you find ways to help people who only focus on the secular emphasis of Christmas see the reason Christ was born?

*All Scripture verses are taken from the NKJV.

Barbara Latta is a true southerner transplanted from Arkansas to Georgia. She writes a monthly column in her local newspaper and contributes to devotional websites and has stories in several anthologies. Her book, God’s Maps, Stories of Inspiration and Direction for Motorcycle Riders applies spiritual concepts to biker adventures. She writes as a Titus 2 woman on her blog at www.barbaralatta.blogspot.com. She loves being a mom to two grown sons and Mimi to one granddaughter.

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2 Comments

  • Rosemarie Fitzsimmons

    I don’t know how I missed this last year, but it must have been intended because I needed to read it now. What a lovely article. I’ve always treasured Prov 13:12, and Barbara’s beautiful writing has given it even more meaning for me. Wishing you all peace, love, and joy this Christmas season.

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