December 04, 2019

So This is Christmas by Susan Barclay

Last December Inscribe blogger Sharon Espeseth gave us a list of writing prompts. This month we've been challenged to develop one.

A friend recently gifted me a copy of Craig Groeschel's Hope in the Dark: Believing God is Good When Life is Not. I'm sure many readers have experienced the unexpected curveballs of life and can identify with the need to know that God hears and is trustworthy. For me, two of those curveballs are the prodigal wanderings of my young adult children.

So, this is Christmas this year. Jesus is no longer the reason for the season as far as my children are concerned. And while my daughter will probably always love the gift aspect, my son has come to despise the commercialism. My daughter has already sent me a list of gift suggestions; my son has simply said, "Make me something. Write a song, make some art." My daughter will probably send Christmas cards to her friends, and my son will probably create something for his girlfriend and the rest of us, but otherwise it seems that they don't care about anything - whether there's a tree or decorations, a Christmas Eve service, or a special meal shared with family. 

My husband and I have decided to make this Christmas what we want it to be. A friend and her husband celebrate the holiday with what they call "The Twelve Dates of Christmas." They've been doing this since early in their marriage and always kick off with St. Jacob's Sparkles. Some of their dates cost money, others don't. They try to serve in the community or bless others for at least two of their dates. I've known of their approach for a few years now and been wanting to replicate it. This seems like a good year to try. We need to focus on the joy of the season.

Several years ago I also heard about a 12 days of Secret Santa. In essence, you pick a recipient (preferably someone who is lonely or in need) and bless them over a 12-day period during the lead-up to Christmas. You make or buy small gifts, wrap, and deliver them without making your identity known. I plan to do that this year. We need to focus on the joy of giving without any expectation of  return.

My mom used to worry about our children being robbed of their "Christmas joy" - for example, if they didn't get to watch the Toronto Santa Claus parade on TV - but quite frankly, it's her joy I'm interested in seeing. Part of that involves putting up the Christmas tree, even if my husband and I have to do that alone. Part of it is sitting around the lit tree at night, enjoying the twinkling coloured lights and listening to Christmas carols. We'll watch It's a Wonderful Life; we'll attend a Christmas Eve service. Though we won't go hog-wild (and never have), there'll be packages under the tree to open on December 25th, and we'll cap the day with a lovely Christmas dinner where we use the "good" china. We need to focus on family.

Whether or not our children will listen or participate, we'll light the weekly advent candles, read the Christmas story, and thank God for His most indescribable gift. More than anything else, we need to focus on Him.

 2019 has been a challenging year, but as Groeschel says in his book, 
Jesus told us that even with just a speck of faith as tiny as a mustard seed, we can move mountains... And what if wanting to believe is enough? What if that tiny bit of barely noticeable faith is still pleasing to God? What if simply wanting to believe is the mustard seed of faith? you realize that just a tiny bit of faith is actually extreme faith?
He loves you. He is for you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will never let you down. He may not do exactly what you want. But he is always faithful, no matter how much your circumstances may seem to indicate otherwise... No matter what happens in your life, the Lord is in his holy temple.
My husband and I recently had the chance to attend Times Square Church in New York City, and heard a song we'd never heard before. I know it's not a Christmas carol, but I hope you find the joy and truth in it.

Have a blessed Christmas.
You can find out more about Susan Barclay's writing at


  1. Jesus knows there are disappointments in life. And the Christmas season can amplify those disappointments. Yet, you have guided us on ways to focus on Jesus who is our hope always! May you have a many moments enjoying the sparkling lights of your Christmas tree over Christmas!

    1. Thank you, Lynn. May it indeed be so, and may each of us focus on the Lord this Christmas.

  2. Great song, Susan! Your suggestions are wonderful, too. thanks for this uplifting post.

  3. Susan, I've had numerous less than stellar Christmases, but the best gift of all truly is said by His name-Immanuel, God with us! May this be the Christmas where that is powerfully felt by you and your husband, even in sadness. I appreciate your intentional focus of Jesus and family centered celebration. I like the twelve dates of Christmas!! Blessings to you this season.

  4. Thank you for this post, Susan. The second sentence, "Jesus is no longer the reason for the season as far as my children are concerned", describes our family dynamics around Christmas too. And it could easily pull me down into a slump if I let it. Like you and your husband, my husband and I make intentional choices to help us focus on the coming of our Savior. Once I get caught up in the mystery and beauty of that wondrous story again, I can enjoy Christmas for what it truly is.I may borrow some of your ideas too! Have a blessed Christmas!

    1. You, too, Valerie! It takes intention, for sure. May all of our prodigals return to their loving Heavenly Father.

  5. Thanks for bringing us into your intentional practices to focus on our Saviour--God With Us! I also like your song and the words from Groeschel's book: " you realize that just a tiny bit of faith is actually extreme faith?" Here in my part of Canada, our type of mustard seeds grow into a plant. However, in Israel they grow into a tree! So Jesus emphasized how a tiny faith IS actually extreme faith!!

    God bless you in your celebrations of Christmas!!

    1. Thank you for pointing that out about the mustard seed in Israel, Sandi! I was also sharing with my mom how Jesus said the widow who gave her two mites gave more than the rich people because she gave all that she had. If mustard-seed faith is every bit of faith you have, it's extreme!


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