In the dark streets

In December 2012, the usual holiday preparations were in full swing when the darkness settled, heavy and oppressive. The flu bug arrived in our community and would not leave. Most families were visited by sickness and were forced to adjust schedules and activities; even church services were postponed or canceled. In my family and circle of friends, a series of events left us weary and saddened. Two cars broke down during travel in a snowstorm. Yes, there was snow—so heavy that travel plans had to be changed. A necessary appliance quit working, and a big repair bill dampened spirits. A friend’s mother died. Other friends were in a serious accident. I spent that Christmas Eve in the waiting room while my dad had emergency surgery. And hanging over all of the world was the horrifying evil of a man shooting children at Sandy Hook School.

Every December since then, I have thought about that 2012 Christmas, a month of darkness, disappointment, evil, and death. That year, when Christmas decorations, gifts, and traditions were mostly forgotten, I began to see what really happened in the dark streets of Bethlehem: God in His kindness sent a light of hope into our dark streets. A Man was born to bring a light into the dark place in which we live.

We sing “Joy to the World” every year. There’s one line that now means so much to me, it often brings tears of gratitude and joy: He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

Today, reflect on what Jesus has brought to your own dark streets. He came to make all God’s blessings flow into our own cursed darkness.

Joy to the world!

Then God said, “Let there be light.”
Genesis 1:3

His life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
John 1:4-5

[Jesus said], “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness,
because you will have the light that leads to life.”
John 8:12

 

What are you celebrating?

One of my grandsons celebrated his birthday this month. I was out of the state that day and missed the cake and ice cream celebration. But on his birthday morning, I sent him a text that said, “I’m glad you were born!”

Birthdays are a celebration of who a person is, of what God added to the world and to our lives at the moment of one person’s birth.

What do we celebrate this Christmas? That a baby was born thousands of years ago? Why? What difference has the birth of that baby made for you? And what might our lives have been like if that baby had never been born?

As my Christmas greeting and gift to you, I offer seven short meditations. Let’s take a few moments on each of the next seven days to celebrate and rejoice at the birth of a Man who changed our lives forever.

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the paths of peace.
Luke 1:78-79

New Beginnings

I know what you’re thinking … I’ve got my posts mixed up, and I’m posting a New Year’s meditation on Christmas Day.

No. This is a Christmas reflection.

A quiet morning, this Christmas morning. A little time to read by the fire. And here I find the Christmas story.  This is from The Hawk and the Dove, a novel by Penelope Wilcock. One of her characters reflects:

‘It’s a funny thing. The thing life is fullest of is the thing we find hardest to believe in. New beginnings. The incredible gift of a fresh start. Every new year. Every new day. Every new life. What wonderful gifts! And when we spoil things, and life goes all wrong, we feel dismayed, because we find it so hard to see that we can start again. God lets us share it too, you know. Only God can give life, it’s true — make a new baby or a new year — but he gives us the power to give each other a new beginning, to forgive each other and make a fresh start when things go wrong.’

The story of Christmas — a fresh start, a new beginning, new hope for God’s creation.

He gave us that gift one night in Bethlehem.

As His children, living by the power of His Spirit, may we give the gift as generously to others.

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Birth of Hope

Now what?

We have just paused in our year to commemorate the birth of the one we say is King.

Now what?

After that night in the stable, Mary and Joseph still had to tend to the business that had brought them to Bethlehem. Could Mary rest while Joseph reported to the census officials? Did they find a room somewhere for a few days? Or were they faced the next day with a long trip home? We know the shepherds returned to their flocks (although they were telling everyone they met about what had happened), and I’m sure the innkeeper was busy with all his other guests and the constant traffic in and out of the town. Life went back to …busy life.

And today we go on with our daily lives.

Last year, I wrote about our “ruined” Christmas. Through everything that happened, I  caught a glimpse of the real story of Christmas—Christ the Light coming into our darkness and Christ our Hope coming into our hopelessness.

This year, the message of good tidings of great joy that has been with me all month is that Christ the Answer comes into my every day.

Prophecies foretold the destiny of the child who would be born:

For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
(Isaiah 9:6 NLT).

While those prophecies were given to a nation and spoke of one who would rule on a grand scale, they are also meant on a very personal level for each one who believes God’s promises.

The government will rest on his shoulders. This transforms our view of the world and our own lives. He is the King! Our allegiance is to one who has authority over all of heaven and earth. Our lives go far beyond earthly realms, worldly principles, and political systems. Our King rules all!

He is Wonderful Counselor. We jump from recognition that the universe is under our King’s command to this comfort of a very personal, intimate relationship with the King. He knows us, through and through. He holds all wisdom and truth. His counsel can be trusted to be wise and loving. Don’t we all need just such a Counselor?

He is Mighty God. I need a mighty God. I need to know that I can trust in something mightier than human effort and influence. I need to know my God goes beyond all natural, social, and political “laws” I observe at work in this world. I need to worship Someone greater than our own man-made idols.  

He is Everlasting Father. I just finished a novel that won a Pulitzer Prize. I read as a writer; that is, I was fascinated at the skillful techniques the author used, especially to develop characters. Yet I finished the book feeling unsatisfied and flat. Why? Because the book held so little hope. There was not even a whisper of God. Characters grew old and some died. And what hope did they find in life? Only a greater “self-awareness.” Sorry, that’s not enough for me. I need eternal and everlasting. I need hope in a loving God who says “Come to me, and I’ll give you life. All of life, as I intended you to have when I birthed you.”

He is Prince of Peace. Whether it’s on a world-wide scale or private and personal, we all crave peace. Jesus said, “I give it to you.” The world knows nothing of peace—not how to create it, give it, or maintain it. The Prince of Peace holds the key, He is the only Way, to the peace we all seek.

And so this Christmas season, the old prophecies have rung in my ears to tell me this baby born in a stable came to bring me everything I need, every day of my life.

Another of God’s promises concerning Jesus is that He is “a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken (Isaiah 28:16).”

Good tidings of great joy! We have a precious cornerstone on which to build our lives, and we need never be shaken.

That birth in Bethlehem was the birth of hope for all of us.

Gifts of Love

From guest Mary Jane Smith, thoughts on the gifts of Christmas:
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Christmas Past

I Cor. 13: 13 “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.”

In my childhood years, we didn’t have lots of money, but our home was filled with lots of love.  I remember that particular Christmas vividly because all I wanted was a Shirley Temple doll (all the rage that season, and for many years to come).

Christmas morning dawned and when we were allowed, I raced to the tree, sure as only a child can be, that the longed-for doll would be nestled under the boughs of the Blue Spruce.  When I opened that large box, I was shocked to find a “grown-up” doll with an entire wardrobe of clothing, accessories and shoes.  Another large box contained a stylish wooden clothes rack.  I vainly struggled to hide my disappointment.

I learned a great deal about the true meaning behind the “exchanging of gifts” that year.

Mom & Dad took me into their arms and explained that it had been a tough year for everyone, and Shirley Temple dolls were very expensive and not every family could have one.  They told me they had found a beautiful doll that needed a home with a child who would truly love her.  Mom said she had made the clothes, hats and purses for her when I was asleep.  She also let me know that the clothes rack had been fashioned by Dad so there was a nice place to hang all the lovely dresses.  I named the pretty Horseman doll “Holly”, in honor of the season she came to live in the Smith household.

Over the years, I have thanked God many times for wise and loving parents who saw the necessity of modeling a life of honesty, integrity, and self-sacrifice. They gave us the gift of giving us what we needed rather than what we wanted.  Much like God the Father that first Christmas, Who gave us His Son because we needed Him, not because we wanted Him!

Mom and Dad have had many Christmas celebrations with Jesus in Heaven, but I still miss their wisdom and example.  I will always remember the year Holly came to stay.  It was one of the best Christmases we ever had, not because of what we received, but because of the love of the giver!

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Mary Jane Smith lives in Florida and will be guest posting again on New Year’s Day.