Many in the community of Sevier County, TN will be having a very different kind of Christmas this year. On November 28, 2016, the beloved Smoky Mountain town of Gatlinburg, TN as well as other areas in the county were ravaged by wildfires which were started in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park near the Chimney Tops trail.
High force winds spread the fires from the park into our beautiful little town and county and over 1400 private homes, rental properties and businesses were completely destroyed. Everyone in our community has been touched by this tragedy and everyone knows a family and most more than one family who lost all that they own in the fires.
Many of the displaced fire families find themselves spending Christmas in a hotel, a friends home, or a home that just isn’t “Home” this Christmas. Although I know everyone is grateful for a place to stay, nothing is familiar…everything that made “Christmas feel like Christmas” is now gone with the wind and the ash. Many are feeling that “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas at all”.
In times like these it is best to return to the basics of Christmas to allow our warm, fuzzy feelings of this sacred season to return to the real story and reason we celebrate at all.
We are all familiar with the story of Jesus birth in bible in Luke, Chapter 2.
The story portrays a couple, Mary & Joseph who were simply returning home to their roots in Bethlehem to be counted in a census. Mary was pregnant and in labor but there was no room for them to stay. They were offered a small barn for her to give birth to the baby that would become the Savior of the world.
And she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger (an animal feed trough), because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus didn’t have a comfortable home that very first Christmas in Bethlehem. They had no material possessions or familiar environment that might bring them comfort. They had each other, some animals that looked on in the night and a dark, cold barn with a feed trough which became a bed for the newborn baby king.. The Christmas story sounds like a sad situation when you put it that way. But then there is the part of the Christmas story that takes the whole situation and turns it around into one of comfort, joy, and hope.
Jesus, the babe who we celebrate at Christmas, is our Savior, our Comforter, our Provider and Friend. He was sent into the world under the most humble of circumstances so that He can identify and relate to every person from every walk of life, beginning with those who have nothing. As a man, He was sent to the cross to die so that in all of our human hopelessness we would have a Savior and the hope of heaven, our eternal home one day.
So, while most escaped the fires with nothing but the clothes on their back, No one escaped without HOPE. If you are feeling like you have no hope this Christmas after losing all of the things and some have lost loved ones you hold dear, I encourage you to turn to Jesus, the baby who was born on Christmas to save the world, who then became the Savior that died on the cross for you and for me so that we can have hope of an eternal home in heaven.
Jesus knows your pain and heartache. He knows what it is to have nothing and lose everything, even His very life. He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24b) And all He wants is for everyone to come home to HIM this Christmas.
Jesus is our hope and our future. He will stand beside us every step of the way as lives and homes are rebuilt in Sevier County.
Thank you for coming into the world as a humble baby and for your sacrifice so that we can all have hope, even in the most seemingly hopeless situations. I ask that you bring COMFORT, JOY, and HOPE to each and every person who has been affected by the wildfires in Tennessee and to all who read this. Help us to see Christmas for the wonderful miracle that it is…the day that God put on flesh and sent his son to earth as a baby in a humble manger to save the world. Amen
About the images:
The images used in this post are of my dear friend Debbie sitting beside the fireplace and what is left of her family home of 40+ years on what has been affectionately named “Miracle Mountain” in Gatlinburg, TN. Debbie, along with her 91 year old Mama, Ruth, and brother Mark Martin lost everything in the fires. In a time when many would feel a great sense of hopelessness, this family is a beautiful example of HOPE in Jesus. As I captured these images which I believe say much more than I can express into words, Debbie began to read such wonderful, comforting words from the old careworn bible. When you’ve lost everything, but you have Jesus…you indeed have everything you need. Thank you, Debbie, Ruth and Mark for letting me photograph your property and tell about your beautiful faith and hope in the Lord. I hope the images and words will bring hope to others in Sevier County.
Ruth Martin is a dear and wonderful friend who has spent her 91 years on this earth writing some of the most beautiful and profound poems I have had the pleasure of reading. All of the “originals” were lost in the fire, but thankfully the publisher of her book “A Gift of Bluebirds” still had everything in it’s files. I’m sharing this poem “THE CRADLE AND THE CROSS” that was written by Ruth in December of 1964.
THE CRADLE AND THE CROSS
The greatest gain the world has known
Was Heaven’s greatest loss;
Her King was gone! His mission was
To die upon a cross.
To Earth He came, a Babe to be.
No pillow knew His head;
No royal cradle did He choose-
A manger was His bed.
No royal court to welcome Him,
Just Mary’s lullaby,
And humble shepherds from the hills-
(But angels sang on high!)
The heart of Mary pondered o’er
The measure of the cost,
As o’er the sleeping Infant fell
The shadow of a cross.
He’d be a man ‘fore she’d recall
The aged prophet’s word,
But when He hung on Calvary
Her heart would feel the sword.
She could not know that holy night
When star-fire lit the sky,
Her tiny Babe-the Son of God-
Was only born to die.
By Ruth R. Martin
If you’d like to help the Martin Family during their time of rebuilding from the fires, there is a GoFundMe account set up for them at: http://www.gofundme.com/blessthemartins