Thursday, December 6, 2018

This is the Christmas

The timeless gift of a baby.

All very tiny humans are, as far as I’m concerned, adorable. The description fits some a bit more than others. Occasionally a baby comes along who is, well, not exactly the customary version of cute. But pick him up and squeeze him, and it doesn’t matter. Wrapping your arms around a wiggling, cooing baby makes the day much better, and it doesn’t matter if he, or she, looks like Winston Churchill. But the little beings emit strange noises and odors, and sometimes they cover their helplessly awestruck fans in stuff no one could describe as adorable. They’re like a little piece of Heaven. Then they remind us we live in a world where things get messy.

The baby boy who came by divine design must have had the same effect on his earthly family. Even though he didn’t get the sterile birthing environment we demand when we welcome a baby, his mother must have adored him. Joseph must have been mesmerized by the sight of him. Maybe his grandparents coddled him. He was not just a piece of Heaven. Whether they knew it or not, this baby was their ticket to Heaven.

He was the savior of the world and yet he came as one completely helpless. And undeniably wonderful. But some were willing to destroy a generation of sweet little boys to keep one baby from fulfilling prophecy. As if anyone could put an end to God’s plan.

The prophet Isaiah tells us about the baby:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us). Isaiah 7:14

Three decades later, the baby was not someone to coddle. Most were long over their fascination with the little man. He was just a carpenter from Nazareth. But a few recognized Jesus for who he really was. And then the sweet story we celebrate of the baby born in a manger became the bitter, bloody event Isaiah wrote about seven hundred years before it happened. The Son perfectly submitted to his Father’s perfect plan. The plan was not one any earthly father would consider for his newborn son’s future. But God, considering our future, did the unthinkable.

God’s message through Isaiah doesn’t tell as much of the baby it does of the wounded, dying man. Nobody found him adorable then. They all turned away.
He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:1-6

Not exactly a Christmas card greeting. But without it the story of the little baby born in Bethlehem means nothing. Isaiah tells of the event in past tense, though he wrote it long before it happened. With God there is no past or future. There is only the happening. This is the day, the minute, the millisecond. It’s history. It’s right now. It’s our future. It changes everything.

This Christmas is the one God remembered when He left Mary’s baby boy hanging on a cross. He saw you hanging your stockings and arranging the little glass wise men and shepherds around the newborn baby who was, who is, God’s gift to the world. This Christmas you might sign your name to a card with the Nativity on the front. Picture that blessed moment with the cross on a hill in the background. Because when the baby was born, that’s what his Father saw.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Beginning of Thankfulness

I met a fellow believer the other day. He’d been down a hard road, much different than mine. I listened as he excitedly reviewed what God had done for him. The list grew, and I began to feel the need to tell him something. But I hesitated. It’s not that I don’t trust God’s calling—I just don’t always trust myself to pick the right words. You’d think words would come easily for a writer, but they don’t.

So I just kept listening as the stories of tangible blessings from the hand of God went on. The man’s gratitude showed. But the more he talked of jobs and money and health issues, the more I wanted to tell him what God did for me. Not that I could compete. Divine release from substance abuse was outside my experience. No miraculous healing. God answers my prayers, and sometimes His work is so obvious I know the answer could only have come from Him. But this guy had me beat.

The conversation turned to other matters. Life and family history. Books. Writing. Well drilling. (My husband’s line of work.) Whatever God had wanted me to tell the man slipped away into one of those missed opportunities. I have too many of those.

But then it came back around. He had one more story to share. Another miracle—a money matter. And when he was done, I spoke what was on my heart.

“I’ll tell you the greatest thing God ever did for me,” I said. “I was a hell-bound sinner, but now I’m going to Heaven. And Jesus made that happen.”

He seemed to hesitate, as if he’d remembered something. “That’s it,” he said. And he nodded.

Our conversation wrapped up and I went on my way. Did I say the right thing? Did it matter? Whatever God wanted to get through to the man, I think He did, in spite of my fumbling tongue.

As I pondered what to write for this Thanksgiving blog, I remembered the man’s gratitude. We should all be ready to share our story of what God has done for us. But nothing compares to what He did long before we started counting our blessings. And that is what I choose to keep at the top of my list.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7