Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we may be able to comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The gift was a White Christmas—my first and only so far. 

I was a young teenager at the time. My family lived several hours away from my grandparents and cousins, so being together on holidays was something my sister and I looked forward to with extra excitement. We had arrived at my grandmother’s home on Christmas Eve and finally settled down to sleep in anticipation of the next morning. 

But during the night I was awakened by my grandmother calling out in a weak voice for help. Having had little experience with illness and death at that point in my life, I watched fearfully as she was taken to the emergency room. Christmas morning didn’t bring our expected celebration. My grandmother’s absence and the question of whether she would live left a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach. I sat on her living room sofa for the longest time that day, looking out the window as snow fell and thinking how ironic it was that my first White Christmas was both the most beautiful and the most painful. That lovely snow felt like a gift of grace to soften the sadness, and I will never forget how much I appreciated that small kindness. 

Beauty and pain seem like an odd couple, but for Christians they so often come hand-in-hand. We appreciate life’s beauty much more deeply when we have also felt life’s pain. This Advent season, I pray that as we celebrate the beauty of Christ’s birth we will also appreciate the painful and unglamorous parts of the story that are also important, knowing that we cannot have one without the other. 

Prayer: Lord of all beauty and creation, help us prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate the coming of your son by seeking daily opportunities to offer gifts of grace to those around us—as you taught us to do for one another in your name.

Beth Lancaster

About the Contributor

Beth Lancaster has been a member of First Presbyterian for most of her adult life, having found a home in Spartanburg as a Converse student and later marrying lifelong FPC member Andy Lancaster. They have two children: William, 9, and Kate, 7. Beth has served as a deacon and currently enjoys teaching first grade Sunday School and helping with children’s choir.