A Christmas Longing

Christmas has been hard this year for me. Deep inside there is an ache, a longing. I remember childhood Christmas’s past filled with lots of family, laughter and love. While we didn’t really have any particular family traditions my mother always tried to make the day about family no matter what was going on or how hard 2013-12-10 09.36.20the season of life was. It’s been 27 years since my mom, sister and brother have been together for Christmas and over 10 years since I’ve spent Christmas together with my mom and sister. I miss them all.

So while my heart may be sad it is also filled with so much joy of the season.

I am blessed that I can spend time with my boys and their family. I can love on my grandchildren and make precious memories with them. I am filled with a heart of joy for my husbands family whom I love deeply. Who still gather at Christmas time to share, laugh and love. They may be my ‘married into family” but in so many ways they are so much more than that. God blessed me far beyond anything I could dream for when he gave me my husband and a family who cherishes one another and has a deep faith in God our Father.

Most of all I reflect on the true meaning of why we celebrate the season. It’s the celebration of a precious baby boy who came to earth so that I might understand my need for God the Father.

I am grateful for a God who loved me so much that He sent His only Son in the form of a baby to earth so that I might know Him. Jesus came to earth in the form of flesh so that we might know His Father in heaven. Jesus came so that we might understand the love of the Father. He came so that we would see out need of a relationship with our Creator God. He came so that He could pay the cost of my sin. He came so that my sins would be forgiven.

So yes, there is a longing in my heart this Christmas for family, for the ideal Christmas celebrations, for traditions but I am reminded of an even greater longing inside the heart of every man, woman, and child. The longing for purpose, for love, for the God who created them.

I am reminded that there are many who will spend this season alone. There will be many who will find the emptiness to be too much and try to end the pain anyway they can. There will be many who will be hungry, cold and without the warmth of any type of celebration.

All this remembering and thinking makes me wonder if I’ve missed the meaning of Christmas all together. What have I done this season to reach out? How have I helped relieve the pain of aloneness? What have I done to show the love of Christ?

If I have missed the meaning of why Christ came and what my response should be what will I do about it now? What will I do tomorrow? Next week? Next year? It’s never too late to share the story of Christmas. It’s never too late to reach out and tell others about the baby that came to save the world.

It’s never too late to show the love of God who came to die for my sins and yours.

Merry Christmas my friends. May we share the joy of Christ’s birth all year long!

 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid ; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people ; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 1″This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:10-14

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you,unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 1 Cor 15:1-5

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Hope in the Midst of the Storm

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3

Trials, tribulations, suffering, pain, sorrow. These are circumstances no one especially considers a joy to walk through. Even if we know that it’s a time of testing our faith or building endurance who wants to face suffering? I don’t know too many who would raise their hands, jump up and down and shout, “I DO!”

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Yet the reality is it will come to each of us. Perhaps you find yourself in the midst of a storm today. Perhaps you feel that you are about to be drowned in your circumstances and you are wondering, “how am I suppose to consider it all joy”?

Today I saw something new in God’s word. Well it was new to me. I am reading through, and studying Romans and this morning I was struck by Romans 4:16 through 5:5. I must have read it ten times before I saw it, but there it was in 5:3, “we also exult in our tribulations,.”

Exult means to “show or feel elation or jubilation”. Seriously? Is it even possible to be jubilate over our tribulations? But how?

I believe our answer is seen in the surrounding verses, but I am still fleshing this out so walk with me through this. Romans 4 speaks of Abraham, his trial, his sorrow was that his wife was barren. But Abraham had hope. His hope came in the promise of God who promised that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham didn’t understand how God was going to do it since he and Sarah were old and beyond child bearing years. Abraham even tried taking matters into his own hands by producing an heir through Sarah’s servant, but that was not God’s plan. (see Gen 16 & 17)

So Abraham came to the point where he put His hope in God. Abraham’s faith grew to the point that he was “fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.” (Rom 4:21)

Abrahams place of suffering, his sorrow grew his faith to where he could hope in what God would do. Abraham didn’t see the end results or even the next step and yet he could give God the glory because he had faith that the God who promised would also deliver that which He promised.

Abraham came to the place in his suffering where he could exult because he trusted in the One who would fulfill the promise.

So what about us? What do we hope in when the storm threatens to overwhelm us? Our hope is in our Lord Jesus Christ. We can exult in the hope of the glory of God knowing that He will deliver us through the storm. But in the mean time Christ will use the storm to build your endurance, and strengthen your character.

When we place our hope in Christ Jesus He will not disappoint. This same Jesus who died for us, while we were helpless sinners and His enemy, saving us from the wrath of God. This Jesus reconciled us to God and left us with the Holy Spirit who now pours out Gods love upon us so that we might have hope in the midst of suffering. (Rom 5:6-11)

So let us remember when we are facing trials to put our hope in the One who does not disappoint. Know that God will give you grace to stand, He will strength your faith, He will build your endurance and your character.

I know this is often easier said than done. When the waves wash over us and we are choking on the water about to go under for what feels like the last time and all we can think about is “I am going to die” it’s hard to have hope. But sweet sister can I encourage you to throw your hand out and cry out to Jesus. Stop thrashing around trying to save yourself. Stop trying to find a way out of the storm and just place your faith in the One who will not let you drown.

Whatever your storms might be I pray that you are able to reach out in unwavering faith and rest assured that the God who has promised to deliver you is also able to perform it.

Photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/