I couldn’t wait to get to the presents. My grandfather sat in his usual chair. A congregation of grandchildren fidgeted at his feet as he read the gospel account of the Nativity story. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied the presents under the tree. Which ones were mine? As a five-year-old, I could hardly contain the excitement about what came next, once he finished reading.
This year, my adult self didn't try to look past Jesus towards worldly things for satisfaction. From the beginning of the pandemic, the presence of my Savior has calmed my fears. The news reports of the virus's deadly effects, of businesses shutting down, have caused me to feel mounting anxiety. How could any of us sustain the drastic measures that social distancing requires? I turned off the news, and instead tuned my heart to the Old Testament prophet Zechariah. He was intimately aware of the effects of turmoil, pandemics, and unrest. I found truth in Zechariah 10. "The Lord is my source for all things. If I seek answers elsewhere I will be misled. God's name is secure because His plans are not thwarted" (Personal Journal entry 5/19/20).
The fear of COVID-19, and the direct impact my family, challenges me day after day. The pandemic effects could have eliminated my husband's job, but instead his employer shortened the work hours, and the managers took a pay freeze. We praised God and prayed for a supplemental income, which God provided. I was surprised to have the Holy Spirit's encouragement to "dream bigger" and "take on the adventure" this year. The result was the nudge to step out and speak in public more. Plus, taking opportunities to explore creation in other states, which fills my soul with joy. My children praised God for their first sights of the mountains in Colorado. We saw dolphins, alligators, and iguanas in the Florida Everglades. God delighted our souls, and as a family, we drew closer to God.
Jesus has comforted and revealed His presence to me in many different situations. As I mourn the deep wounds of my past and work towards wholeness, I discover a friend cries out to God on my behalf. Her compassion reminds me I am not alone in difficult places. This year Jesus marked out the path for my children as they face surgery in the spring. His provision gave answers for their physical struggles, and lined up an amazing doctor who prays for her patients. Both kids are at peace because they see God has His hands on their circumstances. Still, as their mother, I have wrestled with the idea that my children have to suffer at all. God gifted me with the testimonies of other families who have gone through the same surgery. They have shared that their children's quality of life has improved greatly. Because of Jesus' presence, I have never felt alone during this very isolating year.
The anticipation of Christmas was stronger because of my relationship with Emmanuel, which means "God with us." I felt joy as I dove into the book of Luke in October. God opened my eyes to the events of the gospel message, and the personal stories of the men and women described in scripture. These were real people who experienced Christ! I felt connected to them emotionally, felt their anticipation for the Savior, and their confusion over the way Jesus chose to establish his kingdom. I also found security as I saw Jesus fulfill the promises of God over and over. “When God tells us His purposes will happen in our lives, it is simply the way it is because God names it. His plan will happen with or without our belief." (Response to Luke 1:19, Journal). And though I do not physically see Jesus like many men and women of the Bible, His spirit stirs my heart.
As I head into 2021, my vision is in focus, and I can't wait to see what Jesus does next in my life. No gift under the tree compares with having God take off His royal robes to enter my mess. He helps me face fears and step out in faith. I trust that God’s word and His promises for mankind, will never go out and come back void. This is especially true as I learn to share my testimony of His love and hope.
The people whose stories are recorded in scripture experienced heartaches similar to those I experience. I sit at the feet of those who wrote the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I lean into the Christmas story to find hope, joy, peace, and endurance. This year I feel that same anticipation I did as a child, but this time, I'm not looking past Jesus for fulfillment. Now I can’t wait to be in the presence of Jesus.
Does God feel distant or close? The closeness I feel right now to Jesus resulted from consistent reading of scripture and following the Holy Spirit's guidance. This year has been challenging on so many levels. Do you find a revealing of emotions or beliefs you were not aware you had? In these moments our need for Jesus is revealed, allowing us the opportunity to grow and mature in faith. It takes getting to know God's character more deeply, and the gospel stories are a great place to see God in action through Jesus. I encourage you to read the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John in the Bible
Have you read any of the gospels this Christmas? We would love to hear from you. Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook page, the insights you have gained from diving into God’s word. What is God teaching you through the challenges you are facing this year?
Emmanuel, you are ever close to what I experience in life. Thank you for drawing me closer to the manger in Bethlehem, and allowing me to experience the awe of your sacrificial love. Amen
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