About 15 months ago, I got the news I was being laid off from my mining job — a field I’d worked in for 11 years. The news of a layoff can be pretty devastating for anyone, but I know I serve a God who is faithful and just. We strive hard to honor Him in our hearts, in our home, in our church, and in our community. Even though I’ve always said that He — not the company I worked for — was my provider, the enemy tries to kill, steal, and destroy. Every so often, I’ve had to face doubts in myself as a husband, father, and provider for my family.
But I’m getting ahead of my story. When I was in the fourth —maybe fifth — grade, I remember a Saturday that my dad drove me and my cousin to basketball practice. It was near Christmas — and my dad asked us why we had Christmas.
I responded immediately with, “Santa Claus.”
My cousin said, “No, it’s not. It’s about Jesus.”
My dad acknowledged my cousin’s correct answer. We attended a Christian school, so I knew the right answer, but maybe God let me say what I said to teach me a lesson that would stick with me forever. My dad didn’t talk much about salvation matters — but the fact that he was talking about Jesus’ birth allowed me to retain that memory.
Fast forward 23 years — and I was now a dad myself, trying to make sure my son knew what this season is really about. The first couple of Christmases after my son, Elliott, was born, it was just my wife, Lauren, our son and myself — and I really thought about not even starting our son out with Santa.
God was preparing our kids, and us, for the times when we could not go overboard.
But before anyone starts calling me Scrooge — I actually played the Ghost of Christmas Future this past weekend at our church play, but that’s another story — we do have the big guy come around here Christmas Eve. We even do the Elf on the Shelf. We went a little overboard with those first couple Christmases, as most new parents with a decent income tend to do. Around that time, we began talking about expanding our family and my wife started looking at things we could do to help make Christmas enjoyable but practical.
That’s when she read about a concept we decided to adopt in our home. We bought our three young children “something they want, something they need, something they wear, something they read.” What we didn’t know was that God was preparing our kids, and us, for the times when we could not go overboard.
My doubts about providing for my family became a little louder around Christmas last year, when I lost my job. Those moments of self-doubt are the times God likes to reveal His Plan. Seeds that were planted in times of plenty can bring about a harvest when you’re in times of drought or doubt.
A few Christmases ago, a couple we know, our friends Joey and Carrie Elia, were talking about “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and I mentioned I’d never seen the film. They invited us to their home to watch one of the best movies ever made. It has become a yearly tradition that we look forward to doing every year — but that night, watching it for the first time, it reminded me of a conversation I’d had with my son on the way to practice for his Christmas play earlier that week.
He talked about a person being rich because he had a lot of money. I tried to explain the difference between being rich and being wealthy. I told him that even though our family didn’t have much money, we were truly rich because we had the love of Jesus in our hearts — and we had each other.
We are about to enter into the second Christmas of my being unemployed. I’m volunteering, driving the shuttle van for my children’s church school, and running things at home while my wife works as a photographer. Instead of being angry, worried, bitter, or stressed about my job situation, we are thankful for the way God has provided this past year. He has shown us that He is faithful, in good times and bad, and that He can take the plans of the enemy and turn them to our benefit.
I’m grateful for friends who open their home to us to watch a movie. I’m grateful for family who support my decisions to look to God for the answers. I’m grateful for a conversation with my dad 30 years ago that had a lasting impression on me — and grateful for my children, who appreciate the things they have.
Most of all, I’m grateful for a God who loved us enough to send His only begotten Son to die in place of our sins. He gave us a reason to celebrate every day — not just on Christmas Day. He gave us a hope that endures throughout all hopelessness. And he has given us the present to erase the past and change our future.
Merry Christmas. May God bless us, every one.
Bo Copley lives in West Virginia with his family.