“When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.”
Overwhelmed; how else would somebody feel standing in the presence of God. When God shows up in our lives, when we see God at work, we tend to start heading in a new direction. A new year begins with high hopes, leaving the previous year behind and looking forward to a fresh start. Have you ever felt the presence of God? We do not have the privilege of visiting the Christ child but we are privileged to have Jesus the Christ as our savior! Talk about fresh starts and new beginnings; when we feel God’s presence in our lives life takes on a whole new meaning. New Year’s resolutions come and go because they usually are only “skin deep.” We stick with them for a while then go back to how we always have lived our lives. The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “Arise, shine, for the light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” God has a way of lighting up our soul, renewing our life and opening up our eyes to the eternal presence of God. Faith is not just a passing thing or number 3 on our new year’s resolution list; it involves lasting transformation and trust in something far greater than anything we could imagine. Sometimes we see God through our doubts and uncertainties. Other times we see God in the witness of others. And sometimes we see God when the rest of our life seems a blur. The manifestation of God comes when we least expect it, which makes the encounter even more profound. Maybe that is why when we experience God’s presence, all we can say is, “thank you, Jesus.” May your 2017 be a continuous series of “thank you Jesus” moments!
“But the angel said to them, do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
In the final days of Christmas preparations, people usually have just a few more things they are seeking for their friends and family. Perhaps what is being sought is not even a tangible gift but rather peace of mind, comfort, wisdom or anything else that cannot be boxed or bagged. Sometimes what is being sought cannot be explained, we just know it is needed! On Christmas, it seems the real gift that is given is that God loves us so much that we have been sought. Jesus was born so we might know that it is God that is doing the seeking, finding us where-ever the path of life may lead us. Sometimes we are found on the outskirts of life, sometimes in the uncertainties of life, but all the time where our life is today. The birth of Jesus is truly the gift of hope that God wants us and is seeking us out. It is because of Jesus that we have hope for a new day and the joy that comes with the real gift of “God with us.” The birth of Jesus is for the world, for those who seek him and for those who reject him, for those who at times feel lonely, unappreciated, hated, forgotten, or just burdened with the cares of life. Christmas is for those who mourn and for those that celebrate. Christmas is the affirmation that God cares and that your life truly matters to God; you are loved. Here is the supreme gift and joy of Christmas; “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Merry and blessed Christmas to you.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
As we come closer to Christmas, my mind keeps going back to the words of Isaiah when he says the child (Jesus) we celebrate on Christmas is Immanuel or “God is with us.” This profound statement gives great comfort as much as great pause. There is great comfort with this eternal statement in that God promises to be with each of us all the time, no matter how good or how bad the times may be. God promises to be with us always to the end of the age. “God is with us” cannot be wrapped up with pretty paper and bows that always fall off rather “God is with us” is God given. God enters our lives where we live and sometimes where we find ourselves is a place we may try to hide from God. Fortunately for us God is bigger than our perceptions and understands our shortcomings. God offers something so profound, so incredible that it could only be offered through the gift of Jesus, who is “God is with us” in the flesh. God does understand and thankfully God offers grace and mercy to those who seek him and even reaches out to those who have turned away. All this sounds great and certainly provides reassurance along life’s journey, but what about those times when God seems distant; those are the times when faith can be challenged. If God is with us, then why is the path seemingly more difficult than it should be if God is truly with us? God’s promises do not include a care-free existence or a life free from loss or disappointment. What God did promise is to be with us “always, to the end of the age” and the birth of Jesus confirms God’s commitment to be with us always. Christmas is the celebration of God’s eternal love for us and promise to be with us especially in our time of deepest need. Someone once said that when “God seems so distant, that is when God is most near. Our Savior’s birth is a gift to be received, cherished, and shared. Celebrate Christmas as the gift that has no end. God is with you, loves you, and will never forsake you. Merry joyous Christmas.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name.”
You are blessed, truly blessed. Your response may well be to that statement, “Say what? Maybe life was blessed or will be blessed, but right now I’m having a hard time seeing it.” Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt truly blessed even though her reality seemed far from blessed. Consider God’s blessing to be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Every once in a while our view of the stars is obscured by dark clouds or the glare of city lights. You have been truly blessed by God because God has done great things for you but sometimes life can get in the way of seeing the blessings you have received. Maybe that is why Jesus came to us as he did, to be a part of our lives in order that we may see beyond the clouds that may get in the way. Maybe faith in Jesus allows us to see through the eyes of faith the presence of God even in the messiest, cloud-ridden days of our lives. You have been especially blessed, clouds and all, with the joy of Emmanuel, “God with you.” Experiencing the joy of the Lord is not about feeling giddy all the time but is the affirmation of the eternal presence of God in your life no matter where life finds you. You are loved by God, especially you, especially today.