Our Hearts Smile, Even If Our Faces Do Not

We went to visit Nick on Christmas morning. “Visit Nick”—that’s what we’ve decided to call it when we spend time at his graveside. “Going to the cemetery” focuses on the place, not the person, so is too impersonal, too abstract. “Paying our respects” is another option, but sounds too formal to describe going to the place where our son’s body lies. So we “visit Nick,” just like we did on Christmas morning. We sleep in for a while, then eat …

The Death of My Son and the Birth of My Savior

I expect it’s going to prove a difficult holiday in the Challies home. Christmas is usually our favorite day of the year—one of the few holidays for which we’ve developed distinct family traditions. We get up early so the kids can sort through the trinkets in their stockings; then we pause for a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and croissants; then we open gifts; then we relax for a while before beginning to prepare a feast. We’ve developed this tradition over …

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Merry Christmas

It’s early on Christmas morning and the house is quiet. I’m waiting to hear the sound of children waking and whispering and giggling with excitement as they anticipate the day to come. I’m waiting to hear their feet pound their way down the stairs as they come racing to see their stockings and gifts. I’m waiting to see the joy and anticipation in their faces. I know I’m mostly waiting in vain, though, because I know those days have passed. …

Mind Your Christmas Imperatives

Christmas is coming and with it a special season for Christians. Or most Christians, anyway. As we get into the season and as so many people begin their month-long reflections on the birth of Jesus Christ, it’s probably a good time to consider our Christmas imperatives. What are Christians commanded to do in the Christmas season? The Incarnation is nothing short of a miracle. As Christians, we believe that God took on flesh. Jesus Christ, who was and is and …

Jesus Isn’t Threatened by Your Christmas Gifts

Christmas is fast approaching and, not surprisingly, my kids are looking forward to seeing what’s under the tree. The girls, at least, are still young enough that they are waiting with bated breath to learn what treasures they’ll be receiving. I love this. I enjoy their anticipation and am excited to experience their joy as they unwrap what Aileen and I have bought for them. It promises to be a good morning. At the same time, I think we all …

Merry Christmas

Good morning, and merry Christmas. I trust you are enjoying a sweet and meaningful holiday today. My family has two Christmas traditions: The at-home-in-Canada and the away-in-Chattanooga traditions. This year we are in Chattanooga where my family lives. Some friends of friends were kind enough to allow us access to their home while they are away, so we have a beautiful place to stay. We have already opened gifts and a bit later on will get together with my family–parents, …

The Great Christ Comet

What do we do about that pesky star? Inseparable from the narrative of Jesus’ birth is the “star of wonder, star of night / Star with royal beauty bright” that we sing about in our Christmas carols (and, of course, read about in the book of Matthew). What was that star? Where did it come from? If it was so unusual and magnificent that it could lead wise men from the East all the way to Bethlehem, why don’t we …

Merry Christmas

My family celebrates two very different kinds of Christmas. Some years we head down to the South, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to spend Christmas with my parents, my siblings, and their families. Other years we stay right here at home and keep things smaller and quieter. It is one of those stay-at-home years–we are at home and following our usual, treasured Christmas morning rituals: The kids woke up early, but managed to contain themselves until 7. The girls, that is. My …

Why We Know So Little About Jesus’ Birth

We know so little about Jesus’ birth. While it has been the subject of billions of dramatizations and endless speculations, the historian Luke gives it all of one sentence: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” It is almost frustrating, isn’t it? If I had been writing the story of Jesus’ life, I would have written paragraphs …