December 18, 2017
God With Us
All right then, the Lord Himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’) (Isaiah 7:14, NLT).
Friend to Friend
Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. I love the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. I love the chance to give gifts to those I love and to some I may never meet this side of heaven. I love moments by the tree to count my blessings, to remember God’s faithfulness throughout the past year.
For me, this holiday—celebrating Christ’s birth—represents God’s infinite potential to save our souls, to fill us up, to connect us with loved ones, and to restore what’s been lost or stolen.
I must confess, though, for many years, I perpetually dealt with Christmas-envy, which surfaced while walking through one “not-yet” season after another. I noticed others’ blessings in light of what I seemed to lack. I longed for a breakthrough, for life not to feel so hard, and for God’s provision to match our need. But during that time, those things were hard to find. Bed rest, sickness, disease, and more medical debt than we could pay, left me feeling like a have-not; like the girl who pressed her nose up against the window and longingly watched others celebrate this happy time of year.
Many years ago when the holidays were upon us, I remember specifically thinking, “This will be the year. The winds of adversity have shifted and a new season is in our midst. This will be my Merry Christmas year.”
My husband sat on the living room floor and untangled Christmas lights. Our three little boys sang Christmas songs and excitedly pulled ornaments from the box. Our in-laws had given us their big, beautiful Christmas tree to replace our puny, Charlie Brown one. Music filled the air. Cookies baked in the oven. The children celebrated with glee.
I peeked into the living room when I noticed a funny look on my husband’s face. “Is everything all right?” I asked. He rubbed his nose, looked this way then that, and faintly said, “Um, yes. Everything’s fine. Everything is going to be fine.” I startled and said, “Oh no! What’s wrong?”
Well, it seems, that last spring, while doing a little spring cleaning, my dear husband threw away half of our large, beautiful Christmas tree. And a portion of our Charlie Brown tree. Leaving us with exactly two halves of two trees that didn’t belong together.
In a moment’s time, the cookies overcooked and burned, the cassette tape (dating me, I know) got swallowed up in the recorder, and my husband’s tree building endeavor came to a screeching halt. My heart sank and I wondered why—for the life of us—we couldn’t pull off the kind of Christmas scene you see on the holiday commercials. Or why that impossible dream mattered so to me.
My sweet husband was determined to make this right. He said, “Not to worry, honey. I just need a few of my tools.” Bless his heart.
With my hands in the sudsy water, I scraped the burnt cookie remnants from our only cookie sheet. I listened to the sounds of an electric drill in the living room. I heard the skill saw fire up a time or two. And I wondered, does anybody else’s living room resemble a construction site during this holiday season?
Nighttime came and I put the kids to bed. My hubby still hard at work, I kissed the top of his head and said, “It’s okay, honey. We don’t need a tree this year. Thanks for a valiant effort.”
I crawled in bed and fell fast asleep only to wake in the middle of the night to find Kev’s side of the bed still untouched.
I crawled out of bed, wrapped myself up in my robe, and walked in to the living room. I stopped quickly, gasped, and put my hands over my mouth. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here in the middle of the night my husband sat on our living room floor in front of the most perfect, beautiful, medium-sized Christmas tree I had ever seen. He held the control to the lights like they were the control to a racecar. I put my hands on his shoulders and kissed the top of his head. Without turning around he whispered, “I was going to make it a rotating tree but figured I should stop while I’m ahead.”
I chuckled and crawled in his lap. Together we stared at our very own Christmas blessing. Suddenly overcome with emotion, I realized how much my life, our life together, resembled this tree. Kev sat in the mess of our living room and envisioned the finished product. He knew what he was after and was committed to seeing it through to the very end.
Our lives were a mess in so many ways. We were still buried in medical debt. I still battled sickness. Our house was still falling apart. But we had Emmanuel—God—With—Us. He was with us in the mess, committed to our story, and would see it through to its beautiful conclusion.
Jesus came to earth wrapped in human skin, was born into poverty, and walked the earth for us. He came to us, to our mess, and to our need. Though we love a good Christmas holiday celebration, what we need is salvation. Jesus came to save us. And He’s redeeming our story one step a time.
No matter what life season you’re in this Christmas, may your capacity to know Jesus, trust His love, and embrace His nearness grow by leaps and bounds. God is with you. And it’s impossible for Him to fail you.
Jesus, You are the King of Kings and the Perfect Shepherd. You’re my Savior and my Friend. You will see my story to its beautiful end. Thank you for coming to earth, for living a sinless life, for always obeying the Father, and for dying my death on the Cross. I am forever grateful and profoundly changed because of who You are and because of what You’ve done. Forgive me for allowing myself to stress about the non-essentials this season. You are God-Most-High and You are with us. I have more than I could ever need because I have You. I’m deeply loved and profoundly blessed. Thank You, Lord. I love You back.
In Jesus’ Name, I pray,
Now It’s Your Turn
When was the last time you most sensed Emmanuel – God With You? What about that moment was so sacred to you? In what ways are you tempted to allow the stress of the season to steal your joy? Here’s a challenge for you: Sit quietly by the tree for an evening and ask God what He most wants for you this season, and then adjust your schedule and expectations accordingly. A most blessed Christmas to you!
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