A question looking for an answer … why are you writing about Christmas a month after the holiday? No. That is not the question, but it is a perfect segue into what I would like to discuss today.
Tragic events this year may prompt some to look heavenward and ask “Where are you this Christmas?” Instead of gathering around beautiful Christmas trees and a warm home, dozens are still trying to sift through the ashes of the tragic California fires. The neighborhood where my wife grew up is virtually gone. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, monsoons, mudslides, cyclones, tornadoes, typhoons, wildfires, and they are not over yet.
“Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are not the only natural disasters to ravage the world this year – or the most severe,” are the stunning words that begin the article published in the U.S. News & World Report about the 10 Deadliest Natural Disasters of 2017.
The list is not exhaustive and keeps getting longer…
1 Hurricane Maria in the Dominican Republic
2 Earthquake in Mexico
3 Monsoon flooding in Bangladesh
4 Mudslide in Colombia
5 Hurricane Irma in the USA and Caribbean
6 Flooding and landslides in Sierra Leone
7 Hurricane Harvey in the USA
While these disasters are substantial, your greatest challenge may not even be on that list. I know Jon Schmidt’s most significant hardship in 2017 doesn’t make any of the lists of the world’s greatest disasters, but his loss was tragic all the same. Toward the end of 2016, the Deseret News printed an article that reported the following:
“When the search for Annie Schmidt began on Oct. 22, 2016, those who knew her personally understood they were on a mission to rescue a rescuer. Although Schmidt hadn’t scaled mountains or searched through canyons to reach the lost, she’d rescued dozens in her own way.
‘She had an ability to notice and lift up people who had been overlooked in life,’ said her father, Jon Schmidt, of his 21-year-old daughter who went missing last year while hiking Oregon’s mountainous Columbia River Gorge. Several weeks later, volunteer searchers found Annie’s body under a slippery cliff and determined she had fallen to her death.”
Grief-stricken due to their terrible loss, they turned to their religion, faith, and prayer for strength. Friends rallied around them. And The Piano Guys performed concerts to remember and celebrate Annie’s vivacious and positive attitude, friendship, and ability to recognize and rescue the lonely.
Learning to live without a loved one is difficult. How do people recover from such painful events? I am not exactly sure, but I feel we can take a page from the life of this extraordinary musician, who has spent his life recently building others and celebrating the good and beautiful. And even in his time of need, his example and response leave me a better man with the desire to be more faithful.
I know that I am a stronger person having heard of Annie’s life and contributions. The family tried to reach out to find their daughter, sister, friend, an example, but in the end, found heartbreak. Rather than sulk in self-pity and wallow in their loss, they turned to celebrating her life and expressing gratitude for the One who is the Prince of Peace. And we can too.
The Spirit of the Lord asked Nephi “Knowest thou the condescension of God?”
His reply to this question is heartwarming when he said: “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”
Nephi admitted that he did not know why tragedies happen, but despite them, he acknowledged that God loves his children.
That is key. Our Heavenly Father won’t eliminate our hardships, but he will help carry our burden and gives us hope in a full restitution of all that is good and right. He has the power. We have the promise.
Only He can heal us.
I feel you Christmas
I know I’ve found you
You never fade away
The joy of Christmas
Stays here inside us
Fills each and every heart with love
If it doesn’t all make sense yet, it’s OK. The shepherds didn’t grasp the magnitude of this marvelous night in its entirety at the time that this glorious event transpired either. Yet they went to the manger to welcome the Child and celebrate His birth. Good things were inevitable, and with hindsight, we see now the influence and peace available through Him. Our grief does not go unnoticed. Today many around the world don’t yet appreciate or understand the significance of this day. Even the faithful struggle to comprehend its full import. We can celebrate the fact that we know our loved ones are in His care.
The hope we have in Jesus Christ alone is the answer to this important question. I know that he loves his children. A question and an answer … and for now that is enough.
So if you have an occasion to ask “Where are you this Christmas?” I hope you will remember that you can find it in your heart. It will not fade away. Christmas is the reason for the season. The joy of Christmas stays here inside you, filling each and every heart with love.
Gratefully we can enjoy the Spirit of Christmas all the year through with the talents of those that were blessed with ability and have excelled in magnifying their gift. This edifies us all.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.