To my friends,
Last week I woke up early. I looked out the window to assess the time and assumed it was about 6am. The sun wasn’t up but the sky seemed to be lightening in the east. My mind began working as it so often does in my interrupted sleep world.
“What should I write for our Christmas card, and for the next blog … what do You want me to say, Lord?” Phrases began forming in my brain and I knew if I didn’t write them down I’d forget.
I rolled over to flip on the light and the clock said 4:45! Seriously? Not what I expected, but I was awake so on went the light switch, paper and pencil found in the bedside table and I began recording all the ricocheting thoughts and ideas. Thirty minutes later I turned off the light and went back to sleep. Thankfully.
As you begin your Thanksgiving week, one of the best weeks of the year for our family, here are some of the words from that morning in a prayer. May these words tune your heart to declare His praise.
for practicing … obeying … Your command:
“give thanks in all circumstances
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus for you.”
A voice, distant, but sure.
Our land, our world,
by a new virus
sequestered by universal exile at home.
Can you hear it?
We two adrift in a life raft
together rowing to a new
as yet unseen
“There is nothing new under the sun”
the wisest-ever penned.
God’s people in multiple exiles
through the centuries
always hear Him,
see Him more clearly.
Moses exiled in the wilderness,
Judah marched to Babylon,
Israelites in Jesus’ day,
exiled at home … under Rome’s thumb.
Our 2020 exile
an offering, if we choose,
a sacrifice of
prepares our hearts to welcome
Our God with us.
The Word of the Lord …
Thanksgiving brings Christmas,
exile offers His nearness.
Humility precedes giving thanks and receives hope.
Listen and hear, O earth.
Our presence as strangers and aliens,
this place is not our home,
my life is not my own
not my will be done
But Thine alone.
Speak for Your servant listens.
O Come, O Come. Emmanuel.
May our thanksgiving grant You entrance.
“The one who offers a sacrifice of Thanksgiving glorifies Me.”
(I Thessalonians 5:18, Ecclesiastes 1:9, Psalm 50:23)
Have you noticed lots of earlier-than-normal Christmas decorating this year in your neighborhood and town? Have you pulled out your Christmas things sooner than usual too?
This eagerness for Christmas is revealing our collective need for Good News.
Good news is a word … a voice … a message to our hearts. It is not material things wrapped up in beautiful packaging with bows.
God is calling us … to listen to His Good News, His words of comfort and peace in a world falling apart. It’s the season to remember His coming, but the lights and the glitter are only hints of His Light. They lift our spirits but are no substitute for His Spirit.
Does He live within you? Jesus physically came on that first Christmas morning, but when He departed for Heaven 33 years later He sent His Spirit to live within our hearts, to never leave or forsake me and you even in all the chaos of this year.
He is with me!
Countless times this year I have repeated this truth over and over: “You are with me.” This is the essential message of Christmas and the gospel, that Jesus came to dwell among us and to be with us permanently and forever.
Our world is not that different from the days of Caesar Augustus and Herod the king.
Which makes the words of the King of the universe more powerful than ever. Isaiah 33:6, a favorite verse of mine, says, “and He will be the stability of your times,” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the World that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” and Matthew 1:23 reads, “And they shall call His Name Emmanuel” (KJV).
“God With Us” is the meaning of Emmanuel. And if you want a visual reminder of this name now is the season to add His Christmas Names to your tree and keep them out all year hanging on lamp switches or drawer knobs. His names are powerful reminders of who He is every day.
With you. With me.
He is not a God who is wandering the galaxies somewhere, but He is here … present … living with us. The angels declared a stunning announcement. It still is. For anyone who hears the story and believes, life is altered. No one else has ever been born like this.
Do you know Him? Will you welcome Him, Emmanuel, the miracle of Christmas? Will you sing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel” as a prayer from your heart?
What a mystery! God is with us!
For more about the Advent season, check out my podcast: “How Pinterest Stole Christmas: Putting Christ First”