Of Mothers and Mangers and Mirrors

Decades ago I held my first child, a son, in the Winter months– born right at the beginning of the holiday season– and the Christmas Story came to life for me. That year I could enter into Mary’s experience as a young mother: her wonder, her fears, the myriad changes in her own flesh, and all these experiences new and strange, as if the whole world had suddenly been born new with her labor pains. And in the utterly down-to-earth flesh and blood of pregnancy and delivery and the physical needs of a newborn, the Incarnation of the Son of God was no longer a theological concept, but an Everyday reality. That the Almighty One of Heaven who spoke the worlds into being would enfold Himself into the waxy translucent skin of a newborn…just a small warm fragile body held snugly in a mother’s arms…was wonder beyond wonder.

And in the years that followed, my whole world shifted, tilted, redefined itself in unexpected ways, as I struggled to live out my faith as a stay-at-home wife and mother, discovering that the small messy places of life where we bend to serve others can become something sacred– an offering of worship to God– because the Eternal One stooped into Time and Space to submit to an ordinary woman’s care. One of Jesus’ friends would explain it this way, later: “This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) 

Mary must have known well how much she would lose, in listening to that angel. Any woman can imagine what it meant to give up dreams of a wedding day, the approval of her friends and neighbors, the comfort of her family circle. But in bending to God’s will, Mary mirrored His own humility and love, and found unexpected treasures of the heart that beckon to all the women that have come since. Her song still rises: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:46-49) God bent down to us at Christmas, to show us what True Love looks like, and when we bend down to serve others, we become His image-bearers, reflections of His heart.

This Winter I gained another daughter, and I look at her fresh young face and wonder what roads lie ahead of her, see how hard it will be to listen to the right voices in this world– too many clamoring opinions about beauty and worth and meaning as a woman, and what makes a good life. I wish I could tell her and all the young wives and mothers that the best thing they can do with their lives is to live like Mary, to learn to say “yes” to God…to allow Him to shape them around His Son in the small things of Everyday Life. There are so many goals and dreams to chase out there, but it is in Christ that we learn who we are, discover our true worth. It is in following Him one step at a time that we find our purpose. It will be ordinary and humbling, often invisible to others…and quite probably difficult. And we will become beautiful and extraordinary women, if we can listen and learn from Him. A sister-writer said it well: “A woman’s most sacred responsibility is to be so comfortable not just only in her own skin, but in being in Christ, in being shaped and formed like Christ, like the Cross…that she becomes more interested in the ways of Christ than in what others think of her — or what she thinks she wants.” (Ann VosKamp) It is a high calling, a privilege indeed, to be a woman made and defined by God.

This is Christmas that can last all year round: to wrap our arms and our hearts around each other and bear one another’s burdens, to become Love in flesh, for all the world to see, as our Savior did, once upon a time in Bethlehem.

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“This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”  (I John 4:10, The Message)

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“The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is not let anything but the Cross explain her life. (Ann VosKamp)

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Ordinary Miracles

Sometimes we hear God’s voice in unexpected places. Just ask Moses. A blazing bush all afire with glory and a mission impossible coming straight from heaven’s throne…not your ordinary day with the sheep. My life seems so much less amazing, more slow-moving, filled with detours and distractions. Some days I wish I could hear God that vividly and life-changingly.

But it occurs to me in this Advent season of waiting that it’s all a matter of perspective, because Moses spent forty years leading sheep around, day in and day out in that wilderness, occupied with the mind-numbingly everyday existence of water and grass, wool and lambs, getting married and raising a son. Decades of slow-moving days with only the ordinary sounds of life. But when he wrote it down later he was careful to note that “God saw the people of Israel– and God knew.” (Exodus 2:25) In all those ordinary slow-moving days, God was there and God was at work to bring about His plans, listening to the cries of His people for deliverance. And when the time was right he spoke to the man He had prepared for the task and bullied him into doing it. Really. A man just as full of insecurities and fears as I am, who needed some pushing to get him going.

When Moses saw the bush on that one not-so-ordinary day he knew it was worth turning aside from his work to see, important enough to stop and listen. An impressive sight, certainly, but in the solitude of the open spaces under the stars and the changing seasons he had already seen the glory of God in a million everyday ways, listened to the wind and the thunder and the still small voice of God’s presence…and I wonder if he felt like he was waiting for deliverance too, if he recognized the bush for what it was: a fiery milestone of change in his life.

As I listen for God’s voice amid the everyday sounds of an ordinary life, let me remember that He is here and He knows. He is working out His plans, listening to the cries of His people, has a part for me to play if I will pay attention and not get distracted by the pull of media, and shopping, and people’s needs, and chores needing done. I don’t need to be discouraged by the slow passage of time. Because here in the everyday I am tuning my heart to His, bending to obey, and persevering to fill the purpose He has for me.

And if I can learn to hear God’s voice in the ordinary days, then someday when the Extraordinary blazes down from heaven, I will recognize it and be ready to follow. Really, which is the larger miracle, that a bush can burn with glory in the desert… or that God Himself speaks to me in the everyday,  in the quiet spaces of my heart? Emmanuel, God with us…I am listening.

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“It is amazing what the quiet holding of the soul before the Lord will do to the external and seemingly uncontrollable tumult around us. It is in that stillness that the Voice will be heard, the only voice in all the universe that speaks peace to the deepest part of us.” Elizabeth Elliot

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“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”
(Lamentations 3:25)

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When Hope is What You Really Need

In the space of a week Seasons turn, and we go from thanks-giving to waiting, preparing for the birth-day of the Christ Child. And as usual, trepidation and excitement wrestle in my heart for the upper hand. It’s a battle between all the extra work of the season and all the things I truly love about Christmas, and it remains to be seen which feeling will come out on top. I know I am not alone in the mixed feelings. Despite all the glitter and gaiety, or maybe because of it, there is an undercurrent of quiet desperation– as if the whole world feels most strongly this time of year just how much we need a Savior. This is why we observe Advent, to remember in this month of preparation that the fears of our hearts and our wild hopes for happy endings intersected in a stable-cave in Bethlehem long ago on that Holy Night, when all of God’s promises were poured into flesh….all of them “fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

So here at the beginning of Winter…as the Christmas season launches headlong into its race to be bigger, do more, shine brighter… as one year crosses out its last days and another looms large ahead, we unpack our trappings of Christmas and mark off the days of our waiting. We light the candles and read again the old story, unpack the traditions of our years that are rich with meaning, hang the angels on the tree, and wrap up surprise gifts for those we love. All with the silent message: there is Hope for every longing heart. For God Himself has come down to us, and the world cannot ever be the same again.

For all who have held onto the bare branches of Winter and searched hard for Hope, listened long through the night for answers that never seem to come, looked at the blank expanse of a new year with nothing but dread at its enormity, the lights on the tree shine through the window like little beacons lighting the way. The beauty of this Season calls to the spirit, somehow– whispers what we are straining to hear all year long– that there is magic in this old world, something More than what we see and touch, something of eternal value and immense meaning hidden behind the glittery trappings. And the angels on the tree hold out hope in their hands: “See, the Sovereign Lord comes….He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11)

But this season of frantic Joy to The World can grind you down to weariness, take away every last shred of peace if you are not looking for the One who brings it. Ironic, isn’t it, that the very way we celebrate the birth of the Savior only serves to underline our need for deliverance. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah seven hundred years ahead of time to reassure us about His coming: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…” (Isaiah 42:3) The Creator stoops to our need, bends to lift up a fragile broken world and make it new with His own flesh-and-blood hands. There is help for the burdens we carry, and hope for restoration of every crazy situation we face; the future may be unknown to us, but it is not so to Him, and He will bring justice (in the old-fashioned sense of protecting the innocent and vulnerable, and righting of wrongs). The words of the old hymn resound, “Fear not to trust my mighty arm; it brought salvation down.” (JW Howe) 

The angels over Bethlehem shouted until they shook the heavens, and I am sure it was magnificent and glorious when they announced Jesus’ birth, but I have always been drawn to the laments of the prophets, waiting for God’s promises to come true and reminding God’s people of His faithfulness. Thus saith the Lord…“By Myself I have sworn, My mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear. They will say of Me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’” (Isaiah 45:23-24) This is a solid Hope to hold onto, a compass point to steer by so we don’t get lost amid the shopping and baking and partying; this is the depth of meaning that underlies every sparkle of Christmas. God is with us, and He is for us– if you listen you can hear the angels: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

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” So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

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“He has come for us, this Jesus
He’s the hope for all mankind
He has come for us, The Messiah,
Born to give us life…”
(He Has Come for Us, Meredith Andrews)

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All These Impossible Things

Every year when I read the Christmas Story from Luke’s account, I linger over this one sentence that seems so oddly placed: “For nothing shall be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) That the angel should give such a sweeping pronouncement in the middle of back-to-back baby announcements seems oddly dramatic. But for these women whose lives are about to be abruptly re-written, it is not only a clarion call of restoration for the world, but an assurance straight to their hearts.

To the older woman married for years, already resigned to life as it is, her dreams wrestled into silence years ago, the Word of the Lord comes. To the young woman still in her father’s house with her whole life out in front of her, the Word of the Lord comes. To each the impossible message from the Lord is given– intimate, unexpected, and marvelous. To each the terrifying challenge is given to reach out and grow into new places. I can’t help but think that the angel laughed at the ridiculous joy of his news. The Almighty One stoops to enter the ordinary, the everyday blood and body of a woman…and there are no more barriers between the holy and the mundane, between what is possible and what is not. God will Himself accomplish His purposes in hearts that are willing, and our lives will no longer be limited to what we can see and touch and make sense of. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19) Something new in the ordinary endless dust of our Everyday.

To us also, the angel’s message comes at Christmas for all the impossible circumstances we live with. For the bad habits we are trying hard to break; for the complicated relationships that we keep trying to fix; for the ways we cope and cover up and distract from what really matters; for the fragility of these bodies and spirits, and the dark fears that creep at night; for all these, the joyful song blows on the wind: Nothing shall be impossible from now on, because your Maker has come! In all the hard rocky ways we limp through this world, and the griefs that weigh heavy, still there is this announcement that everything can change. And we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King!” We may not see the fulfillment of His plans just yet, but the Almighty One sees us and has come to help, and nothing is truly impossible any more.

Nothing shall be impossible because He is at work, and who can stop Him? Nothing shall be impossible….“for those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14) Nothing shall be impossible…. for “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) Nothing shall be impossible….for “he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.” (Romans 8:11) Nothing shall be impossible….“for we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:32)

For all our impossible things, a Savior was born on a night long ago in Bethlehem. “O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

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“The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.” (Isaiah 57:15)

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“There is no place I can go
Where you don’t already know
How to reach right down and pull me out
I need you…

There is no fight left
On the inside
But maybe that’s where I should be
I’ve given up tryin’
I’m giving it all to you.”
(No Fight Left, JJ Heller)

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Promises, Promises

I keep hearing the deejays say on the radio that “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  But that’s all they are promising, and given the news headlines, I wonder if they are trying to convince us, or themselves. And it’s only a few days into December, and already moms are looking a little wild-eyed at the shopping and the decorating and the parties of Christmas. The calendar promises a regular holiday whirlwind that might distract from the real-life reports from the doctor, and the daily work pressures, and the loneliness; but we all know how those sit on our hearts, at the end of the day.

To be honest, some years it is hard to get excited about the season, and some years it feels like I am decorating this evergreen tree by faith, stepping out into Celebration when my heart hasn’t quite caught up yet. But I do it anyway. Because the only promise that matters was fulfilled right before our eyes on Christmas: the Babe is born into our dirt and noise, and He will save us from our sin.

It’s the oldest promise in the Book, the one that comes right after Adam and Eve wrecked the world, and veiled in the figurative language of prophecy. And weren’t all the generations since, just building their lives on faith? From Sarah who birthed her promised son at the ripe old age of ninety and laughed at the sheer ridiculous wonder of it, right down to Anna who spent her solitary life camped out on the doorstep of the House of the Lord, praying and waiting for the Anointed One.

Isaiah sings out the promise most clearly: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) The angel messenger carries the promise to a young girl in her parents’ home, “…the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) And the angel armies in the skies above Bethlehem pick up the refrain, shouting it to the hilltops: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

We too lift our voices at Christmas, put up our trees to remember the promise, and we light them in full hope of God’s faithfulness.  “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

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“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

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“Meanwhile, this grand primeval promise, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent,” would stand out as a beacon-light to all mankind on their way, burning brighter and brighter, first in the promise to Shem, next in that to Abraham, then in the prophecy of Jacob, and so on through the types of the Law to the promises of the Prophets, till in the fullness of time “the Sun of Righteousness” arose “with healing under His wings!” (Alfred Edersheim, Old Testament History)

 

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Breathing Hard

I heard an old Christmas favorite by Amy Grant yesterday morning, one of many CDs I never got around to this year for some reason (and yes, it is perfectly okay to listen to Christmas music until the end of December, especially when you’ve been too busy before Christmas to enjoy it properly). I remember the year this album came out, when the mix of babies at home and holiday events became just too overwhelming. As a young mother in ministry, realizing Mary’s dependency on the Holy Spirit to accomplish the difficult thing she was called to do sparked a longing to know His powerful help in my own Everyday.

I listen to the song now, these many years later, and recognize God’s presence woven through– know that it was His strength that helped me, His light that guided me through many dark and confusing days, His own heart poured into mine so I could be a help to others. And this is the Christmas miracle that lasts into the New Year: the very Breath of Heaven that overshadowed young Mary is the same One who says to us “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) The holy Presence that knit flesh and Spirit together to bring forth the Messiah, and comforted Mary through that uncertain time is the same the Musician-King sang about: “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:5) The Spirit of the Living God has entered this world to live with us. Not just for certain special people, or for specific important tasks, but for everyday living. This is why Paul the Apostle could tell people plainly that now we can “reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17:27)The Christ Child grew up in this world, lived and died and lived again, and when He went back Home He promised “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) And so the Breath of Heaven comes to live in our fragile clay– simple Christ-followers, made temples by His presence.

This Advent season, everyday life seems to weigh heavy: real people baring their hearts in small groups; late night phone calls, and early morning texts asking for prayer, or for a listening ear; a deluge of tears and general messiness of all kinds. I think of those who are grieving for children lost, and others who are facing impossible circumstances, and the ones who are wondering where they went wrong and how to live out their faith in the place where they are. So many people who are searching for answers. So many who are longing for God’s touch, and just plain weary in their Everyday…seems like many of us could echo Mary’s prayer for help, this Christmas season.  Maybe it is the best way to pray for each other, here at the beginning of a New Year, that the divine Wind would blow through the ordinary in unexpected ways. Maybe there’s no way we can get through today or tomorrow, unless we remind each other often that God is with us, no matter how it looks– He is as close as our next breath. Maybe the only way we can leave the old year behind and face the new one, in spite of problems that seem like they are here to stay, is to remember that we have a Comforter-Helper who will not leave us either. And He is calling “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) It’s me as much as anyone who needs to come close and give it up to Him… just lay it down and breathe deep.

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“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:9-12

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“I believe everything that You say You are;
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart.
In the good things and in the hardest part,
I believe and I will follow You.
I believe and I will follow You.”
(I Will Follow, Vertical Church)

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Some Angels Only Whisper

She holds onto hope, there among the branches, her painted face smiling brave, and wings out-stretched. (Here at the beginning of Winter…as the Christmas season launches headlong into its race to be bigger, do more, shine brighter… as one year crosses out its last days and another looms large ahead.) I put her carefully into the tree full of angels, and nod to her silent message: there is Hope for every longing heart. For God Himself has come down to us, and the world cannot ever be the same again.

I have held onto the bare branches of Winter and searched hard for Hope; listened long through the night for answers that never seemed to come; looked at the blank expanse of a new year with nothing but dread at its enormity. And the lights on the tree shine through the window like little beacons lighting the way. The beauty of this Season calls to the spirit, somehow– whispers what we are straining to hear all year long– that there is magic in this old world, something More than what we see and touch, something of eternal value and immense meaning hidden behind the glittery trappings. And the angel holds out hope in her hands: “See, the Sovereign Lord comes….He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11)

But this season of frantic Joy to The World can grind you down to weariness, take away every last shred of peace if you are not looking for the One who brings it. Ironic, isn’t it, that the very way we celebrate the birth of the Savior only serves to underline our need for deliverance. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah seven hundred years ahead of time to reassure us about His coming: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…” (Isaiah 42:3) The Creator stoops to our need, bends to lift up a fragile broken world and make it new with His own flesh-and-blood hands. There is help for the burdens we carry, and hope for restoration of every crazy situation we face; the future may be unknown to us, but it is not so to Him, and He will bring justice (in the old-fashioned sense of protecting the innocent and vulnerable, and righting of wrongs). The words of the old hymn resound, “Fear not to trust my mighty arm; it brought salvation down.” (JW Howe) 

The angels who filled the sky over Bethlehem shouted until they shook the heavens, and I am sure it was magnificent and glorious when they announced Jesus’ birth, but I have always been drawn to the laments of the prophets, waiting for God’s promises to come true and reminding God’s people of His faithfulness. Thus saith the Lord…“By Myself I have sworn, My mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear. They will say of Me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’” (Isaiah 45:23-24) This is a solid Hope to hold onto, a compass point to steer by so we don’t get lost amid the shopping and baking and partying; this is the depth of meaning that underlies every sparkle of Christmas. God is with us, and He is for us– if you listen you can hear the angels: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

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” So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

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“He has come for us, this Jesus
He’s the hope for all mankind
He has come for us, The Messiah,
Born to give us life…”
(Jason Ingram and Meredith Andrews)

 

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The Perfect Christmas

I wake up the day before Christmas Eve with the stress oozing out of me before I even brush my teeth. The weight of cards not sent, gifts still to wrap, last minute errands, that one present I haven’t been able to find, the empty fridge, Christmas Dinner and stockings to stuff, and all the children not even home yet makes it hard to breathe– presses and constricts till a person might break with it. Christmas expectations raise the bar impossibly high for a recovering perfectionist.

Somewhere between cutting grapefruit for breakfast and feeding the cat, I hear the Still Small Voice: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Mark 8:36) And I realize I could get everything exactly right and the holiday trimmings could be perfect for everyone in this house, and me broken and empty in the midst of it. What do you benefit if you gain the whole holiday and lose the essence of it in the rush? None of us will enjoy Christmas if Mama is ragged and shrill by the evening of the 24th, no matter what else is in the house.

So I breathe a quick prayer, standing in the middle of the kitchen in bare feet, knife in one hand and the other open to Heaven. If I miss Him in this Christmas, I’ve missed the whole thing. If my soul is not turned up toward Christ, it is no better than the inn that turned away His mother long ago. No room…no room…no room…because I’ve filled up my time and my thoughts with preparing for the big party.  No room for the birthday child Himself? Forgive me (yet again, because this is not the first Christmas to learn this lesson).

Lord, show me what things are most important in the next two days, and what things can be left undone. Give me wisdom to approach the holiday plans in new ways, and eyes to see You at work all around. We have no Christmas at all, if we do not have You…Come, Lord Jesus.

 

 

 

 

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

 

 

 

 

“We’re ready for Christmas,  not when we have all the gifts, but when we are ready for Christ — when we’re ready to give all of ourselves to Christ.” (Ann VosKamp)

 

 

 

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All Things Big and Small

“The Lord is bigger than I am,” the old farmer said, shaking his head, cheeks red with the cold, blue eyes looking out over his fields. “He’ll figure it out.” And he bent again to his work, brown coveralls stained and worn, boots patched up with blue Duck tape right there on the toe. I watched him, our breath blowing white in the almost-Christmas air, and felt a bubble of joy rise as the world righted itself, the simple truth untangling knots of worry and lists of things to do and problems without answers. God is bigger than we are. God can fix all of this.

It is something all the tired stressed-out Mamas need to hear a week before Christmas: the ones hoping that grand-kids will come to visit; and the ones staying up late to wrap presents and decorate and bake cookies after working all day; the ones planning for huge family get-togethers and wondering how they will ever get everything done in time; and the ones who just wish everyone could get along for once. The gift in the small dark stable is bigger than the whole world and our crowding stresses dwindle small in the light of His presence. It’s just a matter of perspective: What really matters, and Who is really in charge.

And tonight I finally lift my eyes from a long day of lists and cookie sheets and phone calls to see bare-branch shadows on the snow in the light of the full moon, and I pause by the window, breathe deep the peace of the silent night, and think how easily the small things can eclipse the very large. How easily my world can turn inside out till I’m looking at the wrong side of things. How the old farmer was right to keep his eyes on the simply obvious: The Lord is bigger than I am, and He who hangs the moon and orders the stars, forms the snowflakes every one…well, He knows what concerns me today and can figure out what to do about it.

So I stop and watch, listen to the sound of quiet inside and out, and know what really matters is what He is doing, and He is (and always has been) in control. And suddenly there are wide open spaces, and peace.

 

 

 

 

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King…
And heaven and nature sing:
Joy, unspeakable joy
An overflowing well, no tongue can tell;
Joy, unspeakable joy
Rises in my soul, never lets me go.”
(Joy to the World, Chris Tomlin)

 

 

 

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being….Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth….” Philippians 2:6-7, 9-10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is Christmas

To women with aching hearts, praying through the night,
And fathers watching long for prodigals,
The prophet speaks Comfort:
“Comfort My people….make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” 

To every home that has an extra room, waiting to be filled,
And every heart that needs a place to belong,
The angels sing Peace:
“He makes beautiful things out of the dust.”

To the sheep who have lost their way and perhaps their hope as well–
To all of us who need a fresh start,
The messenger says Jesus:
“He will save His people from their sins.”

Christmas is foremost the story of God fulfilling His promises to make all things new, announcing “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) Envy the prophet Isaiah, given the Good News to proclaim that the time has finally come: “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed….Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:2,9) At Christmas God answers the waiting centuries with His “Yes!” Whispered in the dark stable, blazing overhead in the constellations, weaving music in the wind over the rocky hills of Judea, passed from mouth to mouth on dusty roads by faceless nameless travelers: “For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6-7) 

This Christmas the money we spend and the lights we drape could make us forget for a while that we are only dust underneath, and all the gaiety and greetings might cover up the howl of the ages: “Meaningless, all is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 12:8) But if we dig deep beneath all the distractions and see God’s “yes” of Mercy and Grace at the heart of the season, we would find a more real and sober Christmas, something solid and true and everlastingly beautiful. This is Christmas in its essence, that Someone sees us, Someone hears us, and Someone came to find us. “This is Christmas… Emmanuel, God is with us, tell all the world– We have a Savior, we have a Savior.” (We Have A Savior, Hillsong) 

 

 

 

 

 

“A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

 

 

 

 

 

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground

Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”
(Beautiful Things, Gungor)

 

 

 

 

 

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