|Sunrise at our house this morning
Christmas is just 12 days away. Can you believe it? Many of us are making plans with our families and doing some Santa shopping for our spouses, kids, grand kids and other special someones. This will be the first Christmas in Tom & my's 32 years of marriage that we will not be together on Christmas Day. (For those who are new to my blog, ... welcome!... our family moved back home to South Carolina from Alaska in September of this year. My husband, Tom, still works in Alaska and splits his time between here and there.) I've had a really hard time with him being so far away for long periods. Loneliness and sadness creep in now and then. We FaceTime (video chat) a lot, and that helps tremendously, but you know - it's not the same.
Some of you also hurt from being away from your loved ones, but maybe the reason just isn't a job commute, maybe it's the loss of a spouse or separation or even the death of a loved one. Let me just say right now and right here, I hurt for you. Please be encouraged today that there are people in your life who love you dearly. Who understand your pain, and more than anything want you to feel loved and treasured. Although your first instinct may be to tell them, "I'm fine," instead why not say, "Thank you. It's hard, but it helps when people like you reach out to me." No one wants to admit weakness, but allowing someone to extend love to you heals you both a little at a time when you accept it instead of pushing them away. Embrace that you still have people in your life who love you.
Isaiah 41:13 (English Standard Version)
For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you,
"Fear not, I am the One who helps you."
That verse from Isaiah has been my daily Scripture. When I feel things are out of my control, the world is not turning in the direction I would prefer it to go, and when I feel helpless to change things I simply cannot change. God reminds me He is close to me. He doesn't love me from afar. He is so close to me, that He is actually holding my right hand. He's touching me. He reassures me that I have nothing to fear. Why? Because God is all powerful, and it is God who helps me. Wow. How could I ask for anything more? He gives me everything I need, even before I know I need it.
During the hustle and bustle of this holiday season that can easily get out of control with shopping, parties, and focusing on reasons other than the whole purpose of why we even started celebrating Christmas in the first place, in your hustle to get things done and in your quiet time of reflecting, thank God for His gift to us. The very first Christmas gift. The gift of His Son.
Many of you know the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem to be counted for the census and during that time, Mary gave birth to God's Son, Jesus. Often we picture Christmas with a Manger Scene. A little baby boy who changed the world. That's just the beginning of the story. And really, it's not even the beginning, but maybe the middle. Because in the beginning, before anything existed there was God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Yes, all three-in-one existed together way back then.
Genesis 1:1 (ESV)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:2 (ESV)
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
John 1:1-3 (ESV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
I want you to know this. To understand this. Jesus existed before He was born as a human on earth. God knew before He created anything, what His plan was. He knew man would fall to sin, and God created us anyway. (Blows my mind.) He also knew only a man that had no sin could pay the price for our sin so we wouldn't be separated from God for all of eternity. God desires, and has always desired, to have a relationship with us. He loves us. I know we hear that so much that maybe it's lost it's impact. So listen... God loves you. The You He planned on creating from the beginning. The you He knew would sin against Him, and He went ahead and made you anyway. Why? Can you guess? Because He loves you. Say it with me... He loves you.
Knowing we would sin, God's plan included little baby Jesus being born here on the earth we live on. Why? There are probably more reasons than any of us will fully know until we meet with God face to face one day, but here are some of those reasons:
- So Jesus could live among us.
- Jesus didn't sin.
- By sacrificing His life for our sins, Jesus has made a bridge between us and God our Father.
As you think of the sweet Nativity Scene and read about it in Luke chapter 2 this Christmas season, remember this was just one part of God's plan. Without the cross, we would be lost in our sins. Thank You, Father, that is not the case.
I love listening to Top Christmas music on Alexa (Amazon music) at home and in the car. So many times I've had lyrics jump out at me that I know is God's way of talking to me about something I'm struggling with in my life. God can talk to us in many different ways. It could be through Scripture, through a song, through a book, a dream, and as Pastor Tim mentioned recently, even through a donkey (Numbers 22:28). Are you curious about God forgiving you of all of your sins? Are you thinking maybe that one thing, but not this one? Think you are too far to come back to God through forgiveness? You are not too far. Remember, God knew you would sin. Not a general "oh they will all sin" sort of way, but a very specific way. He knows everything. What we think. What we treasure in our heart. What we do. He is willing to forgive all of your sins, even the most ugly ones. Listen to this...
Psalm 103:12 (ESV)
As far as the East is from the West, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.
Casing Crowns' song, "East to West," puts it this way:
Here I am, Lord, and I'm drowning in Your sea of forgetfulness
The chains of yesterday surround me
I yearn for peace and rest
I don't want to end up where You found me
and it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight
I know You've cast my sin as far as the east is from the west
And I stand before You now as though I've never sinned
But today I feel like I'm just one mistake away from You leaving me this way
Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
'cause I can't bear to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
Let us pray and agree together in the name of Jesus:
Father, thank You for not winging it. Thank You that You've always had a plan, and nothing surprises You in this life. When I'm panicking because something came up I wasn't expecting, and I don't know how to handle it, I can calm down and turn my focus to You, because You are not surprised. You knew it was coming, and You have it all worked out. I am only asked to be still and know that You are God. (Psalm 46:10)
For the sister who is struggling with loss this Christmas season: Speak to her in the way only You can. Let her know and recognize Your voice and Your hand in her life. Let her soak in the comfort of friends and family who care for her and just want to see her smile again. Just as accepting a gift from someone blesses the receiver and the giver, so does accepting compassion from others. Her friends and family want her to know she is still loved even though her world has crumbled with this loss. You, Father, can help her rebuild her life. Help her to be still and know that You are God. Help her to know You are so close to her, that You are holding her right hand, and that You are helping her through this.
Father, my heart aches with those who refuse to admit You exist, for those who admit You exist but reject You, for those who have never even heard of You. With tears in my eyes, and pain in my heart for these people, I humbly ask You with all that I have.... soften their heart. Reveal Yourself to them in a way that will bring them home to You.
We love You. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen