Many of us will be scuttling around with much busyness and preparations for Christmas. Gifts to buy, cards to write, food to prepare. It is indeed a wonderful time of the year for most. But it can also be a lonely time for some. A sore time of memories and the pain of loss. Added to that, this year after various lockdowns and the world-wide pandemic that we are still trying to navigate, Christmas will be very different for many of us. The knock on effect on our health, relationships and finances, may make it hard to sing ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year’.
Sometimes another perspective can be helpful. The following story from Corrie Ten Boom reminds us again, that it is really all about Jesus. He’s not just a helpless babe, He is our Saviour and Friend. He is faithful and true to his promises and is right there by our sides. Only a prayer away. He truly is the greatest gift for us and to share with others this season.
Corrie Ten Boom shares this precious story in her book ‘Corrie’s Christmas Memoirs’.
Now I want to tell you about a happy and a sad Christmas in my life. Christmas was a feast in our Beje home (Dutch word for tall and narrow house). Mother and the aunts had a gift for making it as colourful and happy as possible. I remember the holly and the mistletoe – the Christmas table with the red ribbons. Sometimes even a little Christmas tree.
Tante Jans (my Aunt) always gave her soldiers a Christmas book, and the bookstore sent us a great number from which to choose the best ones. Even as a child I remember the joy of reading through and looking at all those books. The climax of the feast in the Beje was when we were enjoying Christmas Eve stories and the singing of carols.
Tante Jans could tell a story so beautifully that nobody could stop listening to her. I remember the real Christmas event was clearly stressed by her and Father, who read the Bible from a booklet where you could read not only Luke but also the other Gospels – Matthew 2 followed by Luke 2 verse 20.
All the happenings that followed each other as one great story. Both Father and Tante Jans made it so clear to us that Christmas was for all of us. For me. Jesus came for me. Jesus was my friend, my Saviour.
Then, it was Christmas, 1944. Betsie (my Sisiter) had died. I was in a hospital barracks in Ravensbruck (a concentration camp for helping to hide some Jews). Dark it was in my heart, and darkness was around me.
There were Christmas trees in the street between the barracks. Why, I don’t know. They were the saddest Christmas trees I ever saw in my life.
I am sure it was with the purpose of blaspheming that the soldiers had dead bodies of prisoners under the Christmas trees.
I tried to talk to the people around me about Christmas, but they mocked, ridiculed, and sneered at whatever I said. At last, I was just quiet. It was in the middle of the night that suddenly I heard a child crying and calling,”Mommy! Come to Oelie. Oelie feels so alone.” I went to her and saw a child not so young, but feeble-minded. “Oelie, Mommy cannot come, but do you know who is willing to come to you? That is Jesus.”
The girl was lying on a bed next to the window, not far from my bed. Although Oelie was completely emaciated from lack of food, she had a sweet face, beautiful eyes and wavy hair. It was so touching to hear her call for her mother. Oelie had been operated on and the incision on her back was covered by a thin bandage of toilet paper.
That night I told this poor child about Jesus. How He came into the world as a little baby – how He came to save us from our sins.
“The Lord Jesus loves Oelie and has borne her punishment on the cross. Now Oelie may go to heaven, and Jesus is there right now. He is getting a little house ready for Oelie.” Later I asked her what she remembered of what I told her. “What is the little house like?” I asked.
“It is very beautiful. There are no wicked people as in Ravensbruck – only good people and angels. And Oelie will see Jesus there.”
The child added, “I will ask Jesus to make me brave when I have pain. I will think of the pain that Jesus suffered to show Oelie the way to heaven.” Then Oelie folded her hands; together we gave thanks.
Then I knew why I had to spend this Christmas in Ravensbruck in 1944.
In closing, be blessed as you listen to this beautiful version of the well known Christmas carol ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel!’