How has your December felt? Have you been rushed and overwhelmed or quiet and calm?
Our first weeks in Advent have been full of many necessary activities. Some have been stressful and distracting. Others have been enjoyable and full of laughter.
- Early morning scripture reading and prayer (with coffee) have been consistent. My morning journaling has been sporadic and unsatisfying.
- The weather has been warm. The sunrises and sunsets, glorious. But no cold means no snow which means no skiing or snowshoeing, things we look forward to every year.
- We are going away for Christmas and we are excited. But at the same time, we by-pass some of our well loved traditions and gatherings along with shopping, cooking and baking.
- Today I got my car serviced at Toyota. Everything went well, they even washed my car. There it sat beautifully shining red, in the driveway, ready for me to drive home! Until one of the workers accidentally backed into it, causing a dent and a scraping of paint. Good with the bad. Happy with the hard.
Advent brings some feelings of melancholy with its good news-bad news tone. Yes, Jesus was the fulfillment of a long awaited Savior. Yes, He was to be God's "Yes" to mankind. He is Emmanuel, God with us. But he came in such an unexpected way! To a young unmarried girl. To an unknowing young Joseph who did not know what to do! They had to travel far to register. There was no room for them to sleep in warmth and then the baby was born in a cold stable on a cold night, with only shepherds and animals to witness it. Herod was not happy for the competition. They had to escape for their lives. It isn't a pretty picture. This remembrance calls to us as it is, and unless we dig deep for the truth, we're not sure how to react. It feels rather unsmiling and somber.
Well... it was somber, until the angels made it very clear that it was no ordinary chilly night. This was a night of all nights! God had come to us. There could be no greater or more glorious message. I can imagine those shepherds didn't quite know how to take such magnificent news until they finally came to their senses and said, "Lets go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about!"
We had a few moments in past year when we were unsure of how to take good news:
The September afternoon, a year ago, is clear in my memory: Hannah came over, quietly letting me know that she had something for me. I wondered what it could possibly be. Settling into the big blue chair in our bedroom, she reached into her purse and pulled out a plastic vial. “I think I’m pregnant, she whispered. “Maybe that explains why I’ve not been feeling well.” The unexpected news left me speechless! It seemed to be so tentative. As it turns out, she was indeed cradling a baby within and now, a year later she and husband, Greg, have a darling, happy, smiling little six-month-old, Oliver James. We are truly delighted with the gentle love given to and from this dearest little family of three and we find ourselves incredibly thankful for this, another of God's precious gifts.
There was another afternoon in that same September when Joel took me aside and to share their tentative plans to pursue an invitation they were sensing from God to work on a college campus in Costa Rica. Again, I wasn't sure how to react, the news was not fully formed, just starting to grow. But within the year they sold everything and are now living in San Jose, learning Spanish and adjusting to a new life, totally dependent on the Author of the invitation. Of course Joel and Rachel took their children with them: Lucy 4, Charles 3 and Annie, 2. At first the thought of them being so far away was difficult for me to sort out. I was totally in agreement with them going but emotionally distraught at what that meant for my heart and for our family. But as with all things from God, we have adjusted to life through our phones full of news, laughter and kisses. We couldn’t be more delighted with the work God is doing in and through these precious children/grandchildren who have said yes to him.
I’m sure Mary never forgot the moment God sent an angel to tell her of the plans ahead. “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You will conceive and give birth to a son; and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Mary had a question at first, unsure of how this could be. "Oh, wow, I'm going to give birth to the Savior but, oh my, I'm not married!" The great news and the big questions. She quickly received it all upon learning the details of this baby growing within her. She later said to Elizabeth, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” as she proclaimed the acceptance of her special assignment with faith and hope.
At this time of the year we focus on the news, the baby Jesus, the great proclamation from the angels, “Glory to God in the highest…” Let’s get over the shock and let the news sink in. We have a Savior who has come into the world to set us free. There is no need for proper reactions. We have a way to freedom from the sin that so easily entangles! God, in his glorious wisdom has given us a way to know him. There's no bad news here!
This time I know exactly how to feel! Want to join me by being jubilant? Let's take in this great news with great joy. Advent with its good news, bad news gives way to totally outstanding, mind boggling, wonderful news! God has made his dwelling with us and we no longer have reason to be afraid, somber or melancholy! Emmanuel, God is with us. Amazing!!