A Message from Executive Director Chris Purnell: The True Gift of the Season

Chris Purnell

Chris Purnell


There are times when I want the whole world to stop for just one second so that I can get my bearings. But change is ever-present, and the needs of the moment continue to batter my psyche. Whether I have relational stress because of getting together with family for the holidays, or financial stress because I’ve overextended myself, or environmental stress from living in a world that badgers me about the things I should care about during the holidays—our lives are made harder by media and people beckoning us to the shoals of dark distraction.

And many of us have undergone traumatic situations that we cannot make sense of. We are betrayed, or forgotten, or maligned, and we do not know how to reckon with that. Our clients here at the Clinic have experienced that. Many are abused by those they are closest to and now are dealing with the drastic change of being alone; many are persecuted by the governments that were created to protect them and now they are wrestling with living as displaced people in a country not their own; many are veterans who sacrificed greatly for our country and are now seeking out the new normal in the foreign land of civilian life.

These changes are difficult because change often means loss. It can mean loss of normalcy, loss of relationships, or worse. James, Jesus’ brother, wrote a letter to people undergoing catastrophic change and a loss of their identity. He reminded them of who God is, saying that God “does not change like shifting shadows,” and that God is the one who gives “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17).

This can be difficult to hear, especially if we received hard news this year, or if we are neglected, or are the victim of injustice. How can God still be good when everything is so bad?

This is where the gospel of Jesus shines in the darkness. The God-in-Flesh showed us that God does not change, that he is constant and trustworthy and that, ultimately, he will put everything right once more. Jesus was the beginning of all of the sad things in this world coming untrue, as Samwise Gamgee put it in The Return of the King.

And Jesus is the true gift this season—the best and most perfect gift that we are ever given. In the midst of the whirlwind of change, of tragedy, of laughter and merriment, and of Hallmark movies, he is constant and gives us himself—born in a manger, teaching in the streets, dying on a cross, risen from the grave.

May you feel the presence of Christ this season as you navigate change and loss. And may you be an ambassador of his presence to the ones with whom you celebrate. Merry Christmas!

Until justice and peace embrace,