Saturday, December 26, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction

One of the delightful traditions the Crabtree family has enjoyed down through the years is the re-enactment of the Christmas story as the entire clan gathers at our house for a time of feasting and fun. Using a "harmony" of the gospels (a chronological retelling of the life of Christ that borrows from all four gospel writers), I recite the story of the events surrounding the birth of Christ while the grandchildren, selecting their favorite character from our kid-friendly nativity set, role-play each person (or creature) in the story. In years past, a climactic scene was the sudden appearance of Baby Jesus from beneath the skirt of a paper-machete mother Mary! A much-coveted role each year is that of the arch angel announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, especially when the "glory of the Lord shone 'round about them" (complete with special effects created by wildly waving a pen light above sheep made of cotton balls). Between narrations (that rival the baritone recitations of Alexander Scourby :-) we join in singing Christmas carols appropriate to that segment of the story, assisted by a sing-along video displayed on the TV above the creche scene. Over the years the presentation has become quite a production which the entire family thoroughly enjoys.

I have to admit, however, that we do take some liberties in retelling the story. For example, we compress the time between Jesus' birth and the visit of the Magi (which was likely at least two years after His birth and probably not at the stable in which He was born). We also edit out those parts of the story that are disturbing to us -- routinely eliminating the narrative about king Herod's slaughter of all male children in Bethlehem under age 2. (Matt 2:16)

The full story of the incarnation of God in the form of a human embryo, then as the babe in a manger and ultimately as the willing human sacrifice to redeem a lost generation is magnificent and awe-inspiring... but also terrifying. Terrifying as it exposes the awful cost of my sin, the inescapable reality of my responsibility and accountability before a holy God, and the terrible consequences of ignoring His overtures of love and forgiveness. Parallel to the story of God's mercy and grace is the story of evil as an active force in the world that we must not underestimate.

The tension between the ideal and the real is nowhere more palpable to me than in this ongoing battle with malignant melanoma. In recent weeks I have seen the progression of the cancer in a number of ways (visible, palpable and painful metastases, progressive fatigue and muscle weakness, worsening headaches, persistent episodes of scintillating scotoma, etc.), in spite of ongoing radiation and chemotherapy. In the midst of this battle, I am not overwhelmed or overcome, nor am I naive to the very real possibility of my imminent physical demise.

But because of God's intervention in human history 2000 years ago when He took on the frail frame of a man and showed us how to live an overcoming life in the midst of a sinful and imperfect world, I have every confidence in the ultimate victory and in His provision for those I love. Stranger than fiction, the story of Jesus points out both the reality and ultimate solution for the problem of evil in the world.

May you, too, know that victory --
Dr Dan


  1. Dr. Dan, thank you (and Linda) for sharing an insight into your family Christmas traditions. I also shared one of our traditions in our blog tonight...just a bit more frivolous...but tradition at our house non the less!

    My heart and prayers go out for you as you go through more and more symptoms of this devastating disease. God will be with you and your family...of that I am sure!

    I am thanking God for this "one more" Christmas that you and Woody got to spend with your families!

    God's grace to you and yours!

  2. Dan and Linda, what an incredible tradition your family shares this time of year. Our family has our own tradition, just as special, memorable and life impacting on the children. I love the creativity that God gives each of us to bring glory to Him during this special season.

    Your blogs have always been encouraging to me and I have been challenged time and again by your writings. This Christmas year I have pointed my sister to your blogs as her son, David, fights his own battle with cancer. He is under the care of physicians both at Walter Reed and Sloan Kettering. You may remember David, my nephew whom we raised during his high school years. Please pray for him, my sister and family as we continue to pray for you. I will never understand God's ways, but never-the-less I surrender and give Him thanksgiving in all things. I love you!


  3. So glad you had a good Christmas. As always, appreciate your insight. Continuing to pray for you and Linda.

  4. Dr Dan, what a wonderful tradition and it is so good to read your writings and the magnificant way that you document every event. May God Bless you and your family in the coming year; you are an inspiration to many. I pray for you and your family and marval at the strength and insight that God has given you. I now ask God for a miracle of healing and peace beyond all understanding and in all things may His will be sufficient in the things we just don't understand.

  5. bill and wendy hunterDecember 29, 2009 at 2:56 PM

    Truly, Jesus saves. You have told us this past two years in so many many ways. Thanks for sharing a Christmas that reminds everyone that Jesus came into the world to save us.
    May God's continued grace and glory in strength and mercy be imparted through you all in 2010. bill/wendy hunter

  6. HI guys- what an awesome Christmas story we share! Everyday is Christmas for for those of us in Christ. Know that we are thinking of you and praying for you. Love you guys.
    Pam & Kevin

  7. As I read all these blogs and I contemplate the suffering, pain, symptoms and heartaches you have for a family (that you love and need to know will be provided for) and we hear about all that you have already undergone plus to learn that there is an increase in those things,I cant understand it;I never will, but I look up to our GOD and plead to know. I don't ask GOD why, but I have learned that GOD would have us ask what and how....What am I to learn from this?......How am I to respond to this? AND I know that GOD could easily do a miracle in your life and take it all as quickly as it came on.....but what gives HIM so much more glory is your unrelenting surrender to HIS will, your unwavering faith in a just and perfect, loving, caring GOD who promises to never leave us or forsake us, and a hope that HE promises to equip us with whatever it is that we need to go through the circumstance. IT"S our GOING THROUGH and PERSEVERING that gives HIM the most glory and your witness to others of doing just that, is so amazing and mind boggling to some, but so much a necessary testimony for those that have thier own battles with this same affliction and realize that if you can truck through it with grace and strength, maybe they can to. IT prompts them to look beyond thier own reasoning and understanding and seek this GOD that you know and serve and wonder if they too can know HIM like you do. Sharing your family tradition on this blog for others to see as well as carrying out this tradition in your family lets them also see how personal and real HE is and how they need to know HIM too. And what better time to re-enact this time than when all your grandkids are at such a young, impressionable time in thier life....HOW proud they can be to have a grandparent that shares this with them and they will grow up and remember this as one of those most special family memories. All that you share is very inspiring. Know that your efforts to keep on sharing is reaching many hearts and GOD is using you in mighty ways of ministry just by your story. Everyone that knows you and Linda absolutely love you guys and are blessed by the way you live your daily lives and by your situation. IT brings tears to think what you experience every day in the way of fatique, pain, etc. but to know that you have given your life over to the LORD for HIS will to be done is what is most evident. HIS GRACE HAS BEEN SUFFICIENT FOR YOU EVERY DAY, that's for sure.
    Love, Audrey

  8. I am glad that you have been able to enjoy another year full of wonderful traditions surrounded by those that you love most. Always have you (and family) in my prayers.
    May God bless you and loved ones in the New Year! Maria