I love that the Christmas Season begins after a day of Thanksgiving. What better way to prepare our hearts for the welcoming of the Christ Child who has come to earth to make a way for humanity to be restored. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; His love endures forever.” (107:1)
This year has brought the world much unrest, divisiveness, trials and tribulation. In truth, that has been the story of man since the beginning. The Hope of Christmas is the only answer. Jesus came that we might have life, and life more abundantly. It doesn’t mean we will not have heartache or heartbreak, sickness, misery, discouragement, disappointment and separation from loved ones. What it means is that He will be with us through it all. What it means is we are never alone. What it means is this is not all there is.
In reading through the Psalms this year, it has been encouraging to see the anguish and yet the thanksgiving in the midst of life uncertainties in ages past. There is encouragement and hope knowing the same God who was with David, and so many others in times past, is the same God who watches over us and walks with us today. Psalms reminds us: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) and “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Take hope, look up, fix your eyes on Jesus and know that you are never alone. I am reminded of Ephesians 6 which tells us to put on the full armor of God and in The Message says: “God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
Celebrate the Hope of Christmas! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11) “She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21)
Take Hope in this Season of Christmas and remember the promises of God.
Some days a great sadness overcomes me – this is what I do….
“Because we listen for the shout, we miss the whisper.”– Max Lucado
Our world is shouting. People are crying out in pain over injustice. People are frustrated over contradictory information on the pandemic. People are polarized over everything from lifestyle choices to political leanings. What can we do? One thing I know for sure is that we can listen. We can listen to the Lord and follow His leading. And we can listen to each other. We all have different callings, different passions and different means of reaching out and helping others. Some of us are on the front lines, interacting with the hurting and the lost. Some do it with a phone call, FaceTime, Zoom, a letter or email or drive by. For others it’s dropping off a meal or cookies to a neighbor, and for others, they are called to pray. (Of course we can all pray and should.)
These are turbulent times. And in turbulent times we need to quiet our hearts and minds and hear the whisper of the Lord. Remember Elijah and how afraid he was after his escape from Jezebel? The Lord told him to stand on the mountain and the Lord passed by- but it was not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire that He spoke, it was a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12).
Are we listening?
James 1:19 reminds us: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Are we listening during these times or are we just shouting? Are we listening to those who are hurt and angry; and frustrated, feeling like there is no way out of their situation or are we caught up in the hurt and anger or even frozen in denial? This world needs Jesus. It needs to see His love and compassion for the masses. The world needs to see a people of God who are empathetic and who are trying to understand and willing to listen. Remember these words? “For God so loved the world….”
I am also reminded of Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
It’s hard to live in a world where opinions are running rampant and justice is corrupt on so many levels. But we have to remember that we are children of the King and live our lives accordingly. We are to live in peace and to not become bitter when people are unkind and antagonistic. None of this should be surprising to a child of God. Jesus said we would face tribulation and be hated for His namesake.
In the midst of this current pandemic and civil unrest, we need to be the voice of understanding, caring, reason and love. And most of all we need to be people of prayer, praying that the Lord would draw the hurting and lost to Him.
When I read the story of Esther, I’m always struck with one profound thought: that the Lord is always preparing us, all of our lives “for such a time as this”: That tucked in every corner of the Living Word of God, we are being taught “for such a time as this”. I know that we are not ‘visible’ royalty here on Earth, but as believers we are all children of the King and every time we make a choice to make a difference for someone in the world, we are following in the steps of Esther (and, of course, the footsteps of Jesus).
We are certainly living in difficult and trying times right now and God has been preparing us. I believe this wholeheartedly. And because He’s prepared us, we already have an answer as to how to make a difference in the lives around us. You may never know the affect your kind words or actions have while we live on this side of Heaven. Don’t forget who you are, one of God’s own, and the responsibility and blessings that come with that. You don’t have to be loud, boastful or aggressive about it: NO ONE knew Esther was one of God’s chosen people, but she was, and she changed the world. She was brave, in the most unlikely of circumstances and she did amazing work with the life that she was given. Just like Esther, God is with you now. He is with me. He is with all of us. Let’s be brave but ALSO wise. Don’t compromise on showing others the love of Christ. Follow His commandments and cling tightly to your faith. God is walking with us through this, just as He walked with Esther.
What does this look like in today’s world? We can bring a meal to someone who isn’t able to make it to the grocery store or to those who have recently lost their jobs. We can simply call someone who is totally isolated, alone. You do not know the kind of hope you are giving to him or her, or what kind of light you are spreading by just saying “hello, I’m thinking about you. I care about how you are doing”. Hope is such a powerful thing and when your hope is in Jesus, we have plenty to share. And pray. Pray ceaselessly.
We don’t know what the future may hold but what we do know is that we have all come to our “royal positions” as children of God, “for such a time as this.” So that we might shine bright with His love. So that we may serve others. So that we can offer hope to the hopeless. So that ultimately, He can do His good work through us.
So look for those who are hurting or hungry or in need and be the helpers. Support the essential workers, in any way that you can. There are differences that we can make, surely! And the biggest difference we can make is through our love. Take it one day at a time. And live every day in the same spirit as Esther did. Humbly, faithfully, prayerfully, resiliently and not in silence.
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
I’ve seen the phrase Faith over Fear on social media and it’s something we should all be whispering to ourselves. This is a new set of circumstances for the communities in which we live and as a nation. No one knows for sure how or when this will ultimately unfold. But in the meantime we can be accessing ourselves and what we can do: and one thing we can do is pray. We can also check on those around us and encourage them and if things get bad, we can still pray and think of ways we can help our neighbors. It could be as simple as a phone call or leaving a meal at their door.
This should be a time when the Lord’s children shine with the love of Christ.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. JOSHUA 1:9
Do you know what is frustrating?
Toilet paper not being put on the right way. And you know what is even more amazing is that there are people who aren’t aware that there is a right way to put toilet paper on the roll! How’s that for focused frustration?
But this speaks to the struggle so many of us have in life. We get so focused on little things that we lose sight of the big things, the big picture, and what’s important. I wish I got more frustrated about the homeless person I drive by on the street, or the elderly who have not enough food to eat or the food pantry that needs volunteer help and frankly I wish I was more frustrated about not caring enough to help those who are feeling hopeless in this world – when I know that there is the God who loves them and could be their salvation, hope and their light in life. Yet I’m focused on toilet paper…
I want to be so much more than this! I want a heart that hears the heart of God for those around me! We have only so much time on this earth! Psalm 39:4 says, “Show me, O LORD, my end and the measure of my days. Let me know how fleeting my life is.” What am I focusing on? Is it the frustrating little things that eat up my energy or is it the people who cross my path each day that need a helping hand or a kind word?
Lord help us to hear your heart more everyday and open our eyes to see, really see, what is going on around us and reach out to those hurting and in need of encouragement. Help us to honor you in all we do. Amen.
I am thankful that I serve a merciful God who is aware of my frailty: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are dust.” Ps. 103:13-14
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2Cor: 10:5 (I memorized it in KJV in college)
It’s one of my often quoted, memorized verses. Especially when struggling with fear! Sometimes when I worry my mind goes to pretty drastic places. Haven’t heard from a loved one? 😱 More international struggles, earthquakes? Sky is falling? Or how about “I’ve failed at everything”! Or “of what use am I?” “I’m worthless.” Anything!
I tell myself constantly to cast down those imaginations-and remind myself of the God who loves me and who is in control! As I get older, I don’t want to be drowning in fears, but to be able to lift my head in confidence and trust to behold the one Who holds me in His hands!
Remember, He is our Glory and the lifter of our heads! Psalm 3:3
The Lord bless you!
I was struck by that phrase in a preview of the new live-action Mulan movie that is coming out in the Spring. Children, in their culture, were taught to bring honor to their family. The phrase struck me to the heart, to the point of tears. Why?
It’s New Year’s Day and of course we all hear and talk about New Year resolutions. I’m not a fan of them in the general rigid way, but I do think about what are some things I can work on in the New Year time frame. Yes, I want to get healthier and stronger after back surgery. Yes, I want to read more books, and yes, I would like to de-clutter my house. Of course, I want to help others more on this journey and be more hospitable, to share the love of Christ, and be kinder.
But when I heard the phrase, “bring honor to the family”, I realized that was my ‘word’ for the New Year: bring honor to my family but not just to my immediate family, but also to the family of God and ultimately to the Lord. I want to honor Him in everything I do. Honoring Him in the best definition of the word: “high respect; great esteem.”
So what does that mean? How can I honor the Lord? I think part of this year’s journey will be to discover the many facets of honoring. Starting out, I know that in order to honor Him, I must spend more time with the Lord to understand what brings honor to Him. I must be deliberate and purposeful about connecting with Him in a fresh, new way, daily. Easier said then done. We all know the basics, to love, be kind, be respectful, helpful, be accessible, to listen and give of our time. None of this is easy in today’s world: we are pulled in so many directions and have access to so many distractions and sometimes it’s so easy for the business of life and distractions (like screen time) to take over and crowd out quiet moments with God and time with others. But we must fight this and live life, bringing the life-giving love of Jesus to others, which is the ultimate way to bring honor to the Father.
I think this is what New Year Resolutions are all about: choosing to be deliberate about the important things in life. This year I’m choosing honor.
“I will praise you with all my heart, Lord my God, and will honor your name forever.” Psalm 86:12 (CSB)
Honor the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” Psalm 29:2 (NLT)
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Revelation 5:13 (KJV)
My daughter made a comment, during a Hallmark Christmas movie, that they seem to be more religious-inspirational this year. That struck me because I happened to be thinking about Christmas and how sad it is, for the most part, that everyone is trying to erase what the Holiday (“Holy Day”) is about. Whether you love or hate Hallmark Christmas Movies, they do celebrate love, traditions, compassion, family, community and more.
Christmas is a great time of celebration, but if it’s just about presents, and cookies, food and eggnog, and two hour start-to-finish relationship building, then when it’s over, and even for some during, it can leave a feeling of emptiness until the next big party day.
Celebrate however you like, trimming a tree – live or artificial, ginger bread houses, festivals and pageants, big and small family dinners, cookies and candy exchanges, fellowship and parties… but take time to celebrate the “Hidden Magic” of Christmas. I use that term loosely- taking it from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia where the evil White Queen thought she had won when Aslan traded his life for Edmond’s and she killed Aslan. She did not know the deeper magic of Aslan’s perfect sacrifice from which he rose again and saved Narnia.
There’s deeper magic for us, too. The Christ child who grows up and becomes the sacrifice for all mankind so that we can live with hope everyday and life everlasting. He’s the One who shows the world what it means to really be accepted, to be loved, to show kindness and compassion, and mercy to those like us and unlike us. He gives us the gift of Himself. If we keep that deep hidden ‘magic’ within our hearts, we will always have joy in the season, whether we are visiting the mountaintops of our journey or living in the valleys of this life.
The true deeper magic: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16