Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silent, Holy Night

I love this silent, holy night. The presents are under the tree. The children are asleep. It's quiet and the hush somehow seems holy to me. I always stay up a little bit longer to savour this moment.

What makes it so special? It's just another winter night. The lights and the music are nice. But there's something more. It's the "something" that changes everything.

Two thousand years ago there were ordinary shepherds on a hillside doing an ordinary job. There was an ordinary girl expecting a baby. An ordinary stable full of, you know, the things you would ordinarily expect to find in a stable. Well, it would have been ordinary...but everything was infused with the presence of God and that makes all the difference. Ordinary people, things, and events become extraordinary in the hands of God.

An angel of the Lord came and told Mary some pretty unbelievable stuff and she asked, "How can this be?" The angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." That's it. She didn't have to try to get it all right, she simply said, "Be it unto me according to your word." And nothing has ever been the same. Everything was changed because an ordinary girl said, "Okay, you can use me. I trust you."

So, this ordinary night is not so ordinary. There is a holy hush because we've been focusing on a miracle and we've been filled with praise. We've come to adore Him. When we worship the "Holy Spirit comes upon us" and nothing is the same. Ordinary people become extraordinary. They can forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, laugh through tears, and have peace in the middle of a storm--all because the power of the Most High is overshadowing.

God always uses ordinary people who surrender to Him in trust. There's stuff we simply cannot accomplish on our own, but when we say, "Be it unto me according to your word," extraordinary things happen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hope's all about hope.

This morning my prayers are filled with "biggies". Prayers for two families celebrating their first Christmas without a father, for a family whose Christmas joy is diluted with the sadness of an empty chair belonging to an estranged son, for a dear friend sitting by her newborn baby in the NICU, for my dad's worsening and undiagnosed health problems...bigger stuff than what to get Aunt Bertha for Christmas. And, yet, I have this hope!

Paradise was, indeed, lost. God created this perfect earth, lavishly filling it with every good thing. He created people because He wanted friends. But sin came...and we've all suffered the pain of it one way or another. But the very God who was rejected couldn't bear the separation! So He sent His Son.

His Son.

For you.

For me.

All because the great God of the universe, the God who is so huge we can't even begin to comprehend how vast and how great He is, wants to be connected to us. Just stop and think about that for a minute.

A stinky stable. A mother who was most likely gossiped about. A humble father from nowhere. Fleabitten shepherds. And a sky filled with glorious angels declaring, "Peace on earth, good will toward men!!"

Peace on earth? But what about _________ ? What about that big list of heavy duty prayer requests? People often ask, "If there's a good God, how come so many bad things happen?" And yet, of all the gods in the history of mankind, this is the only God who lavishes love on a world that rejected Him and continues to reject Him. I say, wow, what a God! That's an irresistible love.

Yes, I'm grieving with those who grieve. I'm also celebrating with them the good fruit that will continue for generations because of the faith of their fathers. I ache when I see that little baby in NICU, and I'm filled with gratitude because her little life is already a story of miracles. I long for sons to be reconciled to their families, and I believe because I know so many stories of reconciliations that could only have happened by the grace of God.

We continue to see the consequences of sin and separation from God. And we have a promise for a day when there will be no more pain, tears, sorrow and dying. (Revelation 21:4)

On this sparkly, Christmasy morning I bring my requests to God with thanksgiving and hope because I've seen His Love born in a manger, crucified on a cross, resurrected from the dead, redeeming in the present, and promising to come back and make all things new.

"Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

His mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself,

The Lord is my inheritance;

therefore I will hope in Him!

The Lord is good to those who depend on Him

to those who search for Him.

So it is good to wait

quietly for salvation from the Lord."

Lamentations 3:21-26

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Need to See Him

"And so this is Christmas..." Strains of one of my favorite Christmas CD's wafted through the house as we decorated--almost drowned out by the squabbling of my children setting up the nativity scene. Good times!!

For years I didn't have a nativity set because I wanted just the right one. It had to be a bit rustic and kind of authentic looking. About six years ago a friend gave one to me and it's perfect. Perfect because it reminds us of our good
friends every year and perfect because the stable is made out of barn wood and all the little characters are country and homey. Everyone wants to be part of setting it up, but this year somehow two of my kids started on it without the rest of the family. I waited to see how they would negotiate the process without my intervention. Things went okay for a while, but then got a little heated. Seems the problem was that one child wanted to arrange everything nicely, like a picture so you could see each figure. I understood her point completely. I like things to be esthetically pleasing. However, her brother was adamant--they came to see Jesus!! They couldn't see Him if they were all standing around looking nice.


I had to think on that for a while.

I like to think I've come a long way in this area. I'm pretty unconcerned about what the general public
thinks of me. However, I've recently been reminded of how uncomfortable I am when someone I respect doesn't think much of something I value. I am uncomfortable with disappointing my friends and family. And you know what? It is difficult to see Him when I'm focused looking nice.

A lot of the stresses that come with C
hristmas have to do with this whole business of "looking nice"... The process of buying gifts that feel more like an obligation than a gift. Making decisions about how we celebrate so as not to disappoint anyone. Our kids may helpfully point out that their friends get more presents or cooler presents. We may feel pressures and expectations from our extended families. The list goes on.

The angels declared to the shepherds that Christ had come to bring peace. Ironically, the squabbling of my children helped to bring that peace back to my heart. There's no peace in trying to look nice to everyone. You can't please all the people all of the time. But there's a tremendous amount of peace when you go "see Jesus".

Attempts have been made to rearrange the nativity scene so that it looks nicer, but it doesn't take long before all those little shepherds an
d wisemen are crowded around the manager once again and I smile.

Come, let us adore Him.

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You!" Isaiah26:3