After too few hours of sleep, I awoke and quickly remembered, today is Christmas!
A day usually characterized by hope, joy, peace, family and good food.
Unfortunately, my heart was on the heavy side with a variety of thoughts, emotions, questions and uncertainties. This set me on a path of seeking. I saw something on a post that asked ‘Are you above or below the line?’ It showed a listing of thoughts, behaviors and beliefs above the line that represent an attitude and identity of Acceptance and Trust as a result of curiosity, responsiveness, growth and learning and then a listing below the line showing thoughts, behaviors and beliefs that reveal an attitude of resistance and threat as a result of reactivity, defensiveness and recycling drama. More check marks landed on the ‘below the line’ descriptions than I care to admit. Seeing my reflection in a mirror like that is not so fun.
More often than not, I my most treasured times of interacting with the Lord happen on long walks in nature. Today, however, it’s dancing around the freezing line and I can hear the wind outside howling…so, it is just me and God with His book, a journal, a pen and a pillow. To my delight, after some minutes of telling God the hows and whys of the feelings I could put words to, moments of nodding off and waking again (yes, I used the plural as it happened a few times), a few tears in the corners of my eyes and a bit of time reading some verses in the Bible, I started to see the beauty of the gift of Jesus in a sweet new way.
I am a gifts person. It may seem superficial and greedy to some, but I’ve come to recognize that it is just how I am wired. I love the fun energy and thoughtful, caring process it takes to listen to people and recognize what small, practical or special thing might bring a smile to their face and joy to their heart. Equally so, when someone gives me something and I can recognize the thought and care behind it, I am deeply touched. I am aware that not everyone thinks like I do, so I have to adjust how I show and interpret love, but that’s another story for another time. Today, God seemed to be speaking my love language to me very personally as I opened His Word and found so many gifts just sitting there, waiting to be unwrapped and received. So let me tell you what gifts I found as I read these passages. After pondering on these gifts, I just had to take a picture of the gifts where I am this Christmas. Beautifully wrapped gifts for and from several different people…and I have a sneaking suspicion the gifts I’ve started unwrapping from Jesus don’t only have my name on the tag…
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me, To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
On to the Gifts…
The gift with the beautiful red ribbon and bow: Salvation…Jesus, came to save us from our sins. Oh what a Savior! It’s so sweet to consider that even when I run headlong into sin, thinking that it is ‘really’ the thing I want and what will satisfy whatever the longing or craving is in me at that juncture in time, Jesus is there, ready to save!
The tall thin box wrapped in shades of green with a gold bow: Peace…the angels declared it for all who would hear: ‘peace on earth!’ Peace that surpasses our understanding, wrapped up in strips of cloth in an animal’s feeding trough, Jesus-Prince of Peace.
The shimmery blue box: Good will and Good news! I don’t know about you, but good news to me is always refreshing. A word of cheer, a word of hope at the right time, priceless. Knowing that someone is on my side, has good intentions and good desires for me, that is a real gift.
The little tiny box with the bell on the top: Healing…this one is for all of us who have been brokenhearted, hurt, disappointed, misused, abused, ashamed. A tender, caring Friend is here to listen, to bind up the wounds we sometimes don’t even know we have. Jesus was anointed, set aside by God to do work for God, and the first job on the list is to heal the brokenhearted. What a sweet gift.
The short, fat box wrapped in paper with swirls of snow against a blue backdrop: Freedom, Liberty, an open door. For those of us who are feeling like we are imprisoned in our hearts, minds or otherwise held captive in some way, Jesus offers the gift of freedom.
The big box with the gold bow: the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God…this one had me a little puzzled, but this is what the gift means to me…the word for acceptable means that it is someone’s pleasure, delight, favor and desire, a declaration of the Lord’s delight and pleasure in, favor over and desire toward me is something that I can hardly grasp…and a declaration that all the things that have been ‘wrong’ in my life, whether because of me or someone else, will be made right by the Lord, what hope and release that I don’t have to get revenge or hold on to bitterness or pain. He has given me the gift to know that He will make all things right in the end.
The vibrantly colored box with a strips of curled ribbon cascading down: for those who are sad, who have experienced loss, four beautiful things He has given: comfort, beauty, joy and praise. He offers us a bouquet of beautiful roses for the ashes in our lives, a warm, strong embrace, comforting us so we know we are not alone, a deep abiding joy because we know with Him it will all be okay in the end and a praising heart that gains strength from seeing Him in the midst of the pain and loss.
I don’t know what gift you want or need this morning, but I don’t want to leave any unwrapped. It is breath-taking to see them sitting there so beautifully, but let’s receive what He so generously gives and experience the gifts He has made available because of His great love each and every day.