Believe

Believe, it is a word we see almost everyday during Christmas. It’s associated with something that gets our hopes up. The hope of getting something we really want. It builds our anticipation and creates wonderment in our imagination. However, the true meaning of “believe” during Christmas is really about believing in Christ. 
Abraham believed in God’s promise centuries before the promise was born. God credited Abraham’s belief as righteousness, meaning Abraham was fully forgiven and given eternal life because he believed God’s promise.

The same is true for us today. Believing in Jesus, the entire act of how he was born, the life he lived, his death on the cross, and his resurrection to life again activates eternal life in us. All we have to do is believe. We have the history as proof. Abraham had only the promise.

Jesus is the proof of God’s love for us. When we believe on Jesus, we get the gifts of love, joy, peace, and hope. All of them living in us. Jesus is an all inclusive package, so to say. Believe on Him and receive a bounty of goodness in return. 

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Wonder

I came across something in the last few years. It is a saying that I now have hanging in my home. The magic of Christmas is not in the presents but in His presence.

Magic is a word we can easily visualize. Something that wasn’t there has now appeared. But I would like to exchange that word “magic” for another commonly used word during Christmas, “wonder”. During the Christmas season, there is wonder in the air. The wonder of a miracle in the virgin birth and the coming Savior of the world.

So why change magic to wonder? Because wonder is what Mary experienced when the Angel told her that she would become pregnant while still a virgin. The Holy Spirit brings wonder in His workings. We experience wonder at Christmas because of the workings of the miracle of the Holy Spirit. Who is God. And in Jesus who is God with us. It’s seems complicated but it really isn’t. To work on earth, God needs hands that are seen and spirit who is unseen. God is truly amazing.

The foundation of wonder at Christmas time is not in getting the things we long for, it is in the miracle of a virgin birth and the arrival of the Savior of the world. If you experience wonder this time of year, it is because it is the foundation of the experience of the season. Your spirit is agreeing with the meaning of the season. 

Christmas Missives

I’ll never forget the Christmas of 2009. It was the toughest year of my life. It was Christmas time and I didn’t feel like celebrating. It was the season of gifting, so I followed through with the obligatory task of shopping. I have never been the kind of mom who buys her kids toys all of the time, so Christmas and birthdays are when our kids get the things they have been asking for. Like any good mother, I bought a ton of toys and joyfully wrapped them. As I shopped and wrapped, I anticipated the delightful experience of watching the kids open their presents. Christmas Eve arrived and we ate our traditional meal. The kids mulled around the Christmas Tree, peeking at the carefully wrapped presents under the tree. We busied the kids by asking them to make piles of gifts for each person. One by one, the kids stacked presents by chairs around the Christmas tree. Meanwhile, the adults attended to the dishes. Momentum built as things were put in their place.

As the adults sat down by their unopened gifts, the kids danced around floating on air. Anticipation was ever present. To burst the bubble of expectancy, we allowed the kids to tear open their presents. Both were still at the age where an adult needed to help them, one by one, we’d tear a little piece and they would go to town. As each present was opened, the one before it was moved to the side for the next prospect. As opening presents usually does, it goes by really fast leaving a mess of paper and ribbon strewn about. By the time they were done, they were surrounded by toys not knowing what to do or why they had just gotten all of these things. Their confusion left me wondering why I had just gone into debt to create a 10 minute experience resulting in confusion.

I am not sure if anyone else observed what I had that night. What I saw seemed manufactured. Maybe I was having a midlife crisis. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. It all just seemed so fake and meaningless. The reality is that there was an elephant in the room no one was talking about. We were all suffering inside. We were acting Christmas out as if we were in a movie, putting off the truth that real life was a big mess. Everyone else in the house had their own junk they were dealing with. No one could claim they were really happy, except the kids who were innocent to it all. A couple months later, we found ourselves seeking new life.

I was surprised to hear Christians also struggle with the season. With the ultimate meaning of the holiday in their very name, it seems that finding Jesus at Christmas can be difficult. It has taken me a long time to really understand Christmas and to garner the peace, joy, and love that is supposed to come with it. The truth of Christmas spirit is not in the hustle and bustle but in reverence and reflection. When I could see and experience Jesus in my life, meaning came flooding into to my heart.

About three years into my walk with Jesus I attended a dance program at our church. I was rarely excited to see Christmas programs. I was still stuck in my cynicism. But as the music began and the dancers made their way to the stage, a light turned on inside. I looked up at the screen where the words to the songs were displayed and I caught a glimpse of scripture. My heart melted and I began to cry. Actually, I began to weep. You might think that is weird, that’s okay. Crying and me has it’s own story but if I am crying, you know I am experiencing the presence of God. Christmas Carols, Christmas songs often contain scripture from the Bible. I had never taken the time to really listen to what the songs actually said. To me, they were just songs played over and over again in the mall during Christmas time. The interesting thing about this particular song is that I have never had an affinity for it, it was Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Yes, you read that right. The words jumped off the screen, they were AMAZING !

To give you some context, the first scripture that I ever sought out and read with any understanding was Psalm 91. I used to have a lot of fear in my life. At this particular time, my husband was out of town on business. In order to feel safe, I would sleep with the television on in my room. I would drift in and out of light sleep the whole night long. Any bump or creek would wake me up and I would lay in bed scared to get up and check it out. For the first time it seemed ridiculous that I was so scared. I picked up my phone and looked up scriptures about fear. I wasn’t baptized yet, just attending church and a weekly Bible study, but God showed up. Big. Psalm 91 still brings great joy and relief to my heart.

The words on the screen had a word I recognized from that night where I was so scared.

Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace
Hail the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings

Wings. That is all I had to see to have an “aha!” moment. God and I have a history with wings and feathers. Maybe that should be a blog someday. Anyway, God, birds, feathers and wings. They all go together for me. So what about Pslam 91? In verse 4 it says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

I lost it. My hard heart toward Christmas broke that night. I could finally see God was really in it. This holiday, Christmas, means something. Maybe my revelation seems a little strange to you, that’s okay. God reveals himself differently to everyone. My encouragement is this: if you have trouble with Christmas, I implore you to seek out your own revelation of what this season means. If you find yourself cynical, ask God to show you the reality. If you lack peace, seek peace. Whatever it is that disturbs you about Christmas, find a way to flip it around and relate it all back to Jesus. The real reason for the season.

 

Prince of Peace

Peace comes at Christmas because the Prince of Peace has come to earth. I know, for some, experiencing peace is an unfulfilled desire. It seems like all this talk about peace is a big fat lie. I get it, I have been there. 
Peace is a promise and peace is real. The problem is, we believe that peace can be obtained with practical application or experienced externally in our environment. Peace is internal. It is possible to be in the midst of total chaos and feel at peace. The presence of the Prince of Peace is on the inside. 

Jesus keeps us in perfect peace when we think about Him. You might wonder how that could possibly be. The thing is this: Jesus is God represented in human form. Think of it as meditation. You can access peace in chaos when you meditate on the highest power… God with us. It is possible if you choose to disengage for a moment to remember, the season is simple and the expectation is about someone else. Not what you are to obtain or produce. It is the simple celebration of God with us.

When you feel the chaos of the times, search inside for peace. That is where it lives. It cannot be manufactured anywhere except through the presence of sweet Jesus. He’s there, just say His name. 

Baby Boy

I woke up with this song in my head, Baby Boy by for King & Country. As I read the lyrics, I found something beautiful. The simplicity of Jesus’ birth and why it will be celebrated eternally. In a time of hustle and bustle, the truth of our celebration is grounded by a humble beginning. 

Our Savior, this baby boy was born in a barn and laid in a manger. A King was born who would never wear a crown on earth. As we decorate and desire things of beauty, design to attract and lure, I wonder what would happen if we put that stuff aside. Can we believe that a simple manger was good enough for God with us? Could understanding Jesus’ humble beginnings stave off the holiday anxiety and stress? Would this help us lay aside all of the striving to create something temporary and replace it with something permanent? Jesus came to give us abundant life, eternal life. Christmas should be a time where we experience the reality of what the birth of Jesus really means. 

As the trumpets sound in heaven, as we begin to anticipate, remember that Jesus’ birth was simple and understated. The meaning behind his life was powerful and exciting. It is everlasting. His birth meant something and yet His birth was quiet and hidden. Be excited! Celebrate! But use it to create something that lasts because the ultimate reason to celebrate is that this baby boy came to give us eternal life.

Anticipation


I am starting to understand something about Christmas. There is an element of anticipation. It’s about the build up to THE DAY!  The day we celebrate the birth of a newborn king. 

The Prophet Isaiah foretold Jesus’ birth. This prophecy created anticipation of the coming Messiah. God designed this season  to be one of anticipation because he foretold our Savior from Genesis to Malachi. The birth of the Messiah was truly something to anticipate and celebrate.

I remember celebrating Christmas because it’s just what you do. There was no meaning attached to it except for the family traditions and gifts. For some, that’s enough. As an adult it left me depressed and cynical. It all seemed overrated and underwhelming.

Now that I understand Jesus is the reason for the season, I anticipate. I get the symbolism, I understand the songs, and I experience all the words and wonder of Christmas. Keeping my eyes on the reason creates the season. Love came down on Christmas Day. Real love came to earth to live among mankind.