Vine of life

The Light that began burning one dark night in Bethlehem brings a new, different life to everyone who believes.

The Man born that night died… but the Light never did. His death made possible our escape from an empty, hopeless life and gave us a new life.

Then God showed us what He has in mind for us – the Man who had died was brought out of the tomb to live on. God has promised this to all who believe Him. We have been given a life that will never end, and we’re already living that life. In this new life, we have been given the resources and blessings of heaven!

The One born in Bethlehem is the Vine through which this life flows. We no longer have to “work” at this life on our own. He instills a Spirit within us that holds the power we need to do and to be—a Spirit that guides us, molds us, and keeps us connected to our Creator God. This Spirit also connects us to others who live on the Vine, giving us a new, diverse, and far-flung family to support and encourage each other.

We no longer travel alone, helpless, or hopeless. We have a new, immortal life, connected to the life-giving Source.

“Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.
For apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 

He saved us… giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
Titus 3:5 

By his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope.
1 Peter 1:3

The One who canceled the record

I celebrate Christmas because the life begun on that night in Bethlehem tore away the barrier between me and the Creator God.

This meditation could be the longest of the seven days. If I went into detail of all the reasons why God should reject me, it would go on for pages.

But this will be the shortest, because of what a Man born in Bethlehem did for me.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”
John 10:11

But he was pierced for [my] rebellion, crushed for [my] sins.
The punishment that brought [me] peace was on him.  

Isaiah 53:5

Having canceled the record of the charges against us
and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:14

The record against me has been canceled! It is gone.

And one day when I stand at the throne of judgment and the record books are opened, my Rescuer Shepherd will stand with me and say, “This is Elaine. She belongs to me.”

Good tidings of great joy!

The best of all shepherds

Sometime in the last decade, farmers in our area have turned to raising sheep. We didn’t see many of the woolly creatures while I was growing up, but now flocks have appeared on our hillsides. One flock near my home is too large to count and sometimes ranges up the sides of both hills bordering the road. Almost always when I pass those hills dotted with white, I think of Psalm 23.

Psalm 23 might seem an unlikely Scripture to read at Christmas. But may I suggest you do that?

Doesn’t this psalm describe the life we all want, pinpointing our deepest longings and promising that those needs will be satisfied?

The Man whose birth we’re celebrating tells us He is the Shepherd who pours all these things into our lives. Everything our souls long for, we will find provided by Him. And you can depend on your Shepherd to supply whatever specific thing you need today.

The baby born in Bethlehem gathers and cares for His sheep. He never abandons them. He knows all their needs. He keeps them constantly under His watchful eye. He is so passionately committed to His sheep that He submitted to beatings, humiliation, and an ugly death — so that they could live.

The Lord is our Shepherd. We will not be in want.

“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd.”
John 10:10-11

The Healer brings hope

Have you ever put yourself in one of the Gospel scenes as a person coming to Jesus for healing?

Imagine it. You’ve been sick for years, and no doctor can help you. Or your limbs are wasting away, and you’re at the point when your legs no longer support you, and your arms are daily growing weaker. Or you’re living in the hell of a mental illness that has ruined your relationships and cut you off even from your family.

Then you hear news of a Man who has worked miracles for people with similar conditions. They say He can heal anything. People are flocking to this healer, and finding relief from their diseases. They’re given new hope in life. A flame of hope flickers up within you. You are desperate to find this Man and ask Him to help you, too.

Jesus said, “I’ve come to heal the sick, to help those who need help.” It wasn’t just the sick of body, but also those who were sick in mind, broken in heart, and feverish of soul. And Jesus has been working at this mission right up to this very day. He comes into our lives today, too, to heal our diseases.

It’s God’s plan. Ever since Adam and Eve lost the paradise life in Eden, God’s purpose has been to heal our sicknesses, to replant wastelands, and to transform our wildernesses into blossoming gardens.

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings.”
Malachi 4:2

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