The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you. -Luke 1:19
My grandfather sat in his usual chair holding a book. 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, and I couldn't wait to tear into the ones that were mine. As a five-year-old, I could hardly contain the excitement about what would happen once he finished reading.
This year, my adult self didn't try to look past Jesus towards worldly things for satisfaction. Through many difficult times, the presence of my Savior has calmed my fears. The news reports across the country and around the world have caused me to feel mounting anxiety.
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 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."
Some of the fears I am experiencing could have a direct impact my family, and I feel challenged day after day to make sure we can make ends meet. Still we praise God and and trust that God will provide. In the past I have been surprised to have the Holy Spirit's encouragement to "dream bigger" while stepping out in faith.
The result was the nudge to seize opportunities to present my faith while speaking. Some of these led to affording the chance to explore creation as we travel, filling our souls with joy. God delights in our family as we continue to draw 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 who cries out to God on my behalf. Her compassion reminds me I am not alone in difficult places.
Last year Jesus marked out the path for my children as they faced surgery. His provision gave answers for their physical struggles, and lined up an amazing doctor who prays for her patients. Both kids continue to be 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 had to suffer at all. God gifted me with the testimonies of other families who went through the same surgery. These stories of how their children's quality of life improved greatly from the surgery, have helped to sustain me. Because of Jesus' presence, I have never felt alone during isolating times.
The anticipation of Christmas this year is 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!
My connected to the characters in Luke allowed me to emotionally experience their stories. I 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 will be because God names it. His plan will happen with or without our belief." (My response to Luke 1:19, written in my Journal). And though I am not physically able to see Jesus like many men and women of the Bible, His spirit is still able to stir my heart.
As I head into 2024, my vision is to seek to focus. 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 unwrap the presence of Jesus in my day to day life.
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.
Do you find a revealing of emotions or beliefs you were not aware you possessed? 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. What stories are you most drawn to?
What is God teaching you through the challenges you have faced this year? That you anticipate in the new year? Will you invite God along on the journey?
We would love to hear from you about how God is working in your life. Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook page, the insights you have gained from diving into God’s word.
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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