Christmas is coming, and is your goose getting fat? And your turkey or your chickens? Just some of the traditions with commercial messages that surround us as noise in shopping malls and TV blare out warnings for us to be ready for the big day… for Christmas dinner that is! But, in the meantime, have you found and dusted off the songs books for carol singing? And if you are anything like me, you may well have every day accounted for in your calendar between now and the 25th December, so you can’t afford to have slip-ups, hold-ups or unexpected crises…
But what happens when something does go wrong? I mean, when a sudden and unexpected bout of poor health manifested in extreme pain everywhere (and which frantically has you diagnosed with anything from MS to a couple of possible cancers) lands you in hospital? Or the ‘preventive’ chemo you were strongly advised to undertake – and which would be well completed by Christmas? But what happens when it destroys your white blood cells, then your red ones to the point of depending on multiple emergency runs to hospital with pneumonia, clots, collapsing lungs, extreme breathlessness, urgently required blood transfusions and possible staph infections?
Yes, such chains of events have the potential to change everything, just as they have for two of my beautiful church friends in recent weeks. Thus my approach to pastoral care has been two-fold; as we call the faith community to prayer with daily emails and phone calls to keep us up to date, we began by asking for people’s intercessory prayers to be about God being with them in the journey, wisdom for the medical carers – and the ability for our patients to let go and allow others to care for them both in hospital and later…
As days have lengthened into weeks, so has the realisation that not only is Christmas coming but my friends are beginning to think that they may not be able to do all the pre-Christmas things they normally do such as carol-singing in the local nursing home, completing knitting and crochet projects for grand-children and hosting their usual pre-Christmas and Christmas gatherings for close and extended family and friends. It’s time to let them be cared for and others to see to these things. And, I have been heartened to see these worries truly begin to recede into the background of priorities as my friends have been forced to concentrate on what is going on within themselves, health-wise. Trouble is, whether spoken aloud or not, thoughts of ‘Could this possibly be my last Christmas?’ cannot help but invade their minds when possibilities of cancer swirl around.
It is an intense time. ‘We are keeping you in our prayers,’ we assure our friends. Then suddenly God takes the upper hand and smacks us in the face for being slow and way too timid to ask more directly for healing. Here I will confess that I’m a little nervous about that, as I am more inclined to place my healing prayers in the broader context of God’s overall plan for our lives. But sometimes, God just lets me have it – apparently right between the eyes!
So just when the chemo lady couldn’t get any worse, nor thought she could cope with any more treatment, her specialist abandoned the treatment schedule and sent her home to rest and recuperate – with little more than a daily clexane injection to keep the clots at bay. And just when the lady in excruciating pain had been told her biopsy would determine the type of cancer plus treatment that would entail, the medicos informed her she had severe inflammation from the neck down. And, following some rehab, she too will be sent home to rest and recuperate.
Naturally, around our church, we are delighted with such powerful outcomes emerging from such serious possibilities. I am always ‘blown away’ on occasions like as these at the grace and mercy of the God who loves us so much that He entered the world at Christmas as a tiny helpless human baby out of love for all. And as the Christ – Saviour of the world – He grew up to give Himself for each and everyone of us. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. For my convalescing friends, it doesn’t matter if/how/when their turkeys, geese or chickens are cooked. Or if they sing at the local nursing home or not, or if the craft projects are not completed on this side of Christmas. Simply gathering with family and hopefully faith community is their most important priority, and that they allow others to organize things like the food and be upper most in the caring.
So for my friends, thanks to the love of God, and prayers of His people, in 2017, ‘C’ will be for Christmas, for candles, carols – and not cancer. But for those you know – and those you don’t who are suffering from cancer and other ongoing conditions of poor health, can I ask you to light a candle and sing a carol for them too please? Can I also ask you this Christmas to be bold in your prayers? Be faithful, confident and persistent that your prayers may be upon many, as you ask God for a special and holy touch for suffering people everywhere in this holy season. And may you be touched with His grace as you do.
I wish you all a happy and holy Christmas season. And a very blessed 2018.
Glynis Dickins is the Pastoral Care Pastor at Rosanna Baptist Church, in the North-Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. She is passionate for writing about the wonderful people she has connected with throughout many years of ministry. She also writes short stories and published her first novel in 2014 through Ark House, who have just published her next novel.