Jesus Christ has come in the flesh! (John 1.14, 1 John 4.1-3) Glory Be to God!
Praying you are all staying well amid the frantic flurry of seasonal activity.
For some of you there might have been an empty chair at your table this year. For those who read this for whom that is the case, I am praying that God is showing you how able and ready He is to fill the empty place in your heart with His magnificent love. Many in our country are struggling with loss of home, belongings, livelihoods and loved ones from fire, storms, floods and mass shootings. As I consider the devastation in the wake of these sorrows, I pray that those among the suffering who know the Lord Jesus Christ will demonstrate their hope and faithfulness to trust in the God who provides for our needs in all circumstances and by their quiet and thankful trust, will strengthen and encourage others. I pray that everyone who benefits from all avenues of humanitarian assistance will realize that it is by the mercies and Providence of God that they receive it—and be thankful to Him: for “The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” (Job 1.21b).
Speaking of Job 1.21b, I took some time off from teaching children’s Sunday School in November, thinking I would have time to just chill out a bit. I felt plenty guilty about asking for some Sundays not to be teaching the children; and I had a sinking feeling in my kishkes (yiddish: inner parts) that the separation would be painful–a new twist on “separation anxiety.” I had no expectation of how busy my heart and soul and mind would be in the stillness. God does some pretty extensive work in a person’s life when she sits down and stops the busy preoccupations with trying to keep up her momentum in ministry. It’s not that I neglect daily time in the Word of God and prayer. Everyone who has known me since I came to faith 30+ years ago knows that the Word of God and prayer are like breathing for me. However, when a time of transition comes to call, it takes some extra time to be prepared for it and to learn courage and discipline to face it and follow through.
One of the aspects of the time of transition was a reluctant and somewhat surprising change in congregations. After 14 years at my church, this change has been painful–increasing my “separation anxiety;” but God is using it to bring about growth in my life.
Be careful what you pray for; I had been praying for growth, and God is answering it “in spades.”
I am learning more and more in this time of transition into a new, larger church body that Christ’s grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12.9). Those who know me and correspond with me regularly via e-mail know that my signature line most often includes the quote from Scripture:
I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Messiah Jesus my Lord, that I may gain Messiah and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Messiah, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…”
This time of stillness and transition has been a test as to whether I truly do count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3.8-10). And it has all come at the advent of the Christmas season…
The Christmas season has always been a challenge for me for a variety of reasons, none of which I can describe to fit the post-modern reader’s tolerance for words. I will summarize by saying I owe it all to the Word of God. My studies in the Word of God this year have changed my Christmases forever; this year I have been mining deeply into the truth of Jesus’ coming in the flesh. As a result, the impact on my mind and heart has made my celebration of the incarnation of Christ impossible to contain in one season of the year. The Scriptures say,
“But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!”
–2 Chronicles 6.18.
Well, that’s how I feel about trying to hold the enormity of Messiah’s coming in the flesh to one binge season. The declarations of John 1.14 and 1 John 4.2-3 are greetings that can be shared every day of the entire year. Of course, if you want to say, “Merry Christmas!” along with the words of one or both of those passages, that works, too: because, in Christ it is always Christmas and never winter…
I am praying that the “smorgasbord” of seasonal sensations will not have eclipsed the length, height, depth and breadth of the love of God through His good and perfect Gift of Christ in the flesh.