Although Christmas around the world is celebrated as a time of peace and joy, for many it can also be a time of sadness when the memories of tragedy and departed loved ones are felt more sharply than ever.
Naomi, in the book of Ruth, was one such lady who had experienced tragedy. In the space of a few short years she had known famine, exile and the shame of her sons marrying into another culture. This was followed by the terrible pain of losing her husband and also her two sons.
Her original name carries the sense of tenderness, charming and graceful. However, when she finally struggles back to her home town of Bethlehem she has taken on an indentity of suffering.
“Don’t call me Naomi, ” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 1:20-21 NIV)
In the same place where a vulnerable Messiah was born, Naomi has become wounded and bitter…and who can blame her? Even today, as we celebrate Christmas, many may also be feeling that the Lord has bought affliction and misfortune upon their lives. Many are bitter in Bethlehem.
Does Christmas offer a solution for such pain beyond the tinsel and alcohol?
Noami found a solution in a person – a man called Boaz. In her family tradition he had the right to redeem what had been lost in the family history. Naomi says of him:
“The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers. ” (Ruth 2:20 NIV)
We too have an even greater “guardian-redeemer” in the person of Chirist – the vulnerable Saviour who began his earthly life in a humble stable – even a threshing floor, in the same town of Bethlehem. The solution to our pain lies in finding our way back to him as Naomi did through her valiant daughter in law Ruth. Let us learn to sit patiently at his feet awaiting his abundant provision and healing.
Naomi finds healing from her pain and hope for a new chapter of life. Her daughter in law, Ruth, brings a new son into the world, an ancestor of Jesus himself. This son has a proclamation made over him in Ruth 4:11. I’ll give you the translation from my French version.
“May you be powerful in Ephrata, and make a name for yourself in Bethlehem.”
The angel Gabriel promised a special son to Mary and told her to name him Jesus – the one who saves. Find that powerful name of salvation and healing in that humble Bethlehem stable this Christmas.
Further words of promise are spoken over the child.
“The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.” (Ruth 4:14-15 NIV)
Know that you are not abandoned to your tragedy this Christmas. Bring your life afresh to the redeemer and find fresh grace and tenderness. My prayer for all those who are drinking the bitter cup of pain this Christmas is that Jesus will indeed renew and restore your life.
May we all be renewed from the trials of last year and walk confidently into the New Year with our guardian redeemer.