Wednesday, December 14, 2022

when Christmas is hard

 This season can be hard. When you're broken or hurting, the celebrations and decorations can just make you hurt more. The Christmas carols remind you of everything and everyone you're missing. The lights bring tears to your eyes. The bright packages just make you think of the one person you can't buy a gift for this year.

The Christmas season can be an almost unbearably hard time when you're in a hard place. And feeling that way when you know everyone else is happy? It can make it worse. You start thinking that you're being a burden to those around you, that you're ruining their Christmas because you aren't happy. After all, "'Tis the season to be jolly," right?

Let me remind you of something--despite what the world has turned Christmas into, that's not what it's about. It isn't about the decorations: snowmen, Rudolph, candy canes, candles, Santa, angels, or twinkling lights. It isn't about the carols. It isn't about the presents. It isn't even about being with family.

Christmas is about a God who loved you so much that He chose to walk with you. It's about Immanuel--God with us. It's about the One who traded the glory of heaven for the heaviness and heartache of this world.

Christmas is about the One who knows all the pain we're going through and makes the choice to walk with us through those pains. It's about the One we can be real with; we don't have to paste on a fake smile and pretend like everything is great:

55 Saying Your name, Eternal One, I called to You
    from the darkness of this pit.
56 Surely You’ve heard me say,
    “Don’t be deaf to my call; bring me relief!”
57 So close when I’ve called out in my distress,
    You’ve whispered in my ear, “Do not be afraid.”
(Lamentations 3:55-57)

Christmas is about the One who chose the hard road for Himself so that He could walk beside you on yours. He knows your heartache and He promises to wipe away your tears. He was in the fiery furnace, the lions' den, the belly of the whale, and the waves in the storm--He's not going to abandon you in this.

So take heart in the hard times. Don't feel like you have to pretend to be happy. Don't worry about how you're "supposed" to feel or act right now.

Instead, let the One who came as Immanuel wrap you in His arms and whisper in your ear. Let Him comfort you in this season. In the middle of the busy-ness and trappings of this time, let Him remind you of the true meaning of Christmas. 

...especially in the hard times.

Monday, December 12, 2022


God's chosen people were waiting. God had promised them a Messiah, and they hadn't seen him yet. There were judges and kings and mighty warriors of God, but not the promised one who would come to redeem Israel. They were waiting for the promise to be fulfilled, for the Anointed One to come and bring peace to the earth. They were waiting for God's promised Messiah to come and set up his kingdom, the kingdom that would never end. They waited for a mighty warrior to come and wipe out Israel's enemies.

2 "The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this."
(Isaiah 9:2-7)

The were waiting, full of expectation. But as is so often the case, what they were promised and what they were expecting weren't quite in line with each other.

The Messiah was a king who chose to step out of the throne room. He chose to set aside His incorruptible body and wrap Himself in the fragile form of a tiny baby.

"Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something
to be used to His own advantage;

rather, He made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness"
(Philippians 2:6-7)

He came into the life of a young girl, a girl willing to do the will of God even though it would make things hard. A young Jewish girl who was pledged in marriage couldn't just show up pregnant--and yet, her answer when the angel appeared to tell her that the impossible was about to happen to her, Mary (or Miryam, to be closer to the Hebrew) responded, "As you have said, let it be done to me." (Luke 1:38)

He came into the life of an honorable man, Joseph (Yosef), whose life was suddenly turned upside down when he learned that the girl he was supposed to marry was pregnant. A man we honestly know very little about, but a man we can assume pursued God. A man who had already decided to divorce Mary privately so he wouldn't disgrace her, then listened to the angel and married her anyway, even though it probably would have meant disgrace for him.

He came to earth not as a mighty warrior or with the benefit of a title or royal family. Instead, He came into a broken world that didn't accept Him and waited for His crown. He waited, not for a crown of gold and jewels, but a crown of thorns. He waited because He knew we needed a Savior for our souls, not just someone who would save the day. He waited because He knew the only way to reconcile us to a holy, perfect God was to come in the humbled form of a human and live a holy, perfect life... with all the bumps and bruises and temptations that we face. He waited because He knew--from the start--that He was born to die as the sacrifice for us.

And now, all of creation waits. We don't wait for a Savior, because He was already given for us and waits for us to receive His gift. Instead, all of creation waits for the eternal restoration of what God created. We wait for the day He will return to earth in glory, the day He will come as the King of Kings and establish His kingdom on the new earth--an earth once again established in God's perfection, but this time a perfection we won't ruin. And like has happened so many times before, I can't help but think that what we expect is different from what God will do.

"19 For all of creation is waiting, yearning for the time when the children of God will be revealed. 20 You see, all of creation has collapsed into emptiness, not by its own choosing, but by God’s. Still He placed within it a deep and abiding hope 21 that creation would one day be liberated from its slavery to corruption and experience the glorious freedom of the children of God." (Romans 8:19-21)

We wait now, not because God wants to see us suffer in a broken world, but because God wants to see all of us come to Him. We wait because He is giving us time:

"Now the Lord is not slow about enacting His promise—slow is how some people want to characterize it—no, He is not slow but patient and merciful to you, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to turn away from following his own path and to turn toward God's." (2 Peter 3:9)

"His purpose in all this was that people of every culture and religion would search for this ultimate God, grope for Him in the darkness, as it were, hoping to find Him. Yet, in truth, God is not far from any of us." (Acts 17:27)

We wait in a fallen, broken world because God wants everyone to search for Him and find Him. So today, as we wait for Christmas, I pray we will all remember the weight of waiting, and I pray that those of us who are in the waiting stage--those of us who have already accepted the gift that was sent to all of us at Christmas--will reach out to those who are searching so they will realize that God is waiting for them.


 I just listened to a video posted by a young woman. She posted it as an explanation of why she chose to walk away from her faith, saying sh...

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