“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79 (NRSV)
The reflection of the face looking back at me in the mirror seemed years older than the one just months before — hollowed in all the wrong places with less light behind the eyes. 2020 seemed to have worked its gnawing way from my insides to my outside.
In all of the waiting and hoping and praying for life to return to its normal cadence of work, school, sports, friends and worship, it dawned on me that my pleas were misaligned. I was praying for my circumstances to change rather than praying to shine in my current situation.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Each slow and awaited return has been welcomed and celebrated. When our congregation announced that after months of online worship, we would be returning to the sanctuary in a limited capacity and with masks, I was thankful. I was so ready to be back. Walking into the building with its familiar voices, smells and faces (well, eyes above masks at least) was good for my soul. I imagine the same will be true for my kids upon returning to their school buildings and classrooms.
Yes, I was ready and grateful for those small returns to routine. But I didn’t think I was ready for Christmas. It seemed to sneak up on me this year. I wanted to get everything back to normal first and then have a normal Christmas with all the trappings and trimmings. But I was slow to realize the very core of Christmas is precisely what we all need right now … not with our circumstances perfect, but in the midst of the mess.
Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming of Christ says, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
Before Jesus came to save us, there was darkness and turmoil, kind of like now. People thought they knew what they needed, but the actuality of the birth of Jesus and how He would rescue us eluded them. Similarly, we may not think we are ready or can even begin to open our hearts to the joy of the Christmas season this year, but perhaps this year, of all years, we need it the most.
This year, it’s been hard to find joy. Most of the time, I am one of the annoyingly early adopters of Christmas spirit. Before the turkey leftovers have been stashed in the fridge, out comes the tinsel and manger scene. My heart is full of the giving spirit. I am ready to decorate, celebrate, bake, worship and praise. But this year, it’s been hard to see the light leading to the true meaning of Christmas.
Today, I’m challenged to do things differently. Instead of praying for my circumstances to change, I am now praying to flourish where I am, knowing and believing that the star of wonder and the miracle of Christmas is hidden there, just beyond the thick and looming clouds.
Heavenly Father, let the Spirit of Christmas refresh me and shine through me this year. Fortify me in the here and now. Help me to continue to believe, even when I cannot see. Help me to bloom where I am planted and accept the blessings of Christmas even if the season looks different this year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (NRSV)
Matthew 2:10, “When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.” (NRSV)
The Thoughts We Think, The Words We Speak: A Study of the Book of Ephesians starts January 4 in the First 5 app. The Study Guide includes a brand-NEW section: “In Case You Were Wondering.” Sometimes there is more to understanding Scripture than originally meets the eye. That’s why our team wanted to provide you with additional information on some of the most popular verses from Ephesians. Order your Study Guide today!
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
Has this Christmas season been difficult for you? What have you done that’s helped you remember the true meaning of Christmas? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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