Monday, December 24, 2012

A Great Light

"The people walking in darkness
 have seen a great light; 
on those living in the land of the shadow of death 
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation 
and increased their joy.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, 
and the government will be on his shoulders.
 And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
-Isaiah 9: 2-3a, 6

(I wrote the following for the December 24th date in our church's Advent devotional.)

Read:  Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14

Christmas Eve is the night it typically hits me that, if I do not slow down and savor the moment, I will miss it.  Christmas will come and go, only to return with another year.  Therefore, I don my Christmas best, attend a candlelight service, sing Silent Night with eyes closed, and attempt to muster the “feeling” of Christmas.  I want to be moved.  And sadly, I have hurried through this sacred season only to reduce the celebration of Christ’s birth to a feeling.  A feeling that is about me: making my vision of Christmas manifest, making my holiday season complete.

This Christmas Eve, whether you have rushed through the hustle and bustle or have taken the time to absorb the gravity of Christ’s Incarnation, I pray we can all pause and simply embrace the new song He brings.  Thankfully, Jesus is bigger than evoking a mood or conjuring that “Christmas feeling.”   Instead, He wants to evoke the reality of His coming and etch its worth upon your heart… The reality that He came as He did, as a weak, vulnerable child so that we may be strong.  And the reality that He will come again, enabling us to live with hope despite the brokenness and pain we face.  

By rejoicing and celebrating His coming in spite of life’s ups and downs, we proclaim His song of redemption is ultimate, His song conquers, His song remains.  This is our offering in the face of His love.  We were in darkness, but we have truly seen His great light.  Experience this Christmas Eve that, indeed, all is calm, all is bright. 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!

"Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day."
-Psalm 96:1-2

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Waiting Still

“Strength is born in the deep silence of long-suffering hearts;
not amid joy.”
-Felicia Hemans

After Monday’s post, a friend emailed about the rest of Simeon’s story found in Luke 2:33-35:
“The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about [Jesus]. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’”

This is part of the story too.  The truth is that Jesus’ message was divisive (Luke 12:51), not because of a lack of love but because of a lack of hearts softened to His revelation.  And the hard reality for Mary was the sword that would come to pierce her soul as she watched her son grow into a man who was misunderstood, ridiculed, abandoned, and crucified.

Now, we will never face pain on that level, but because our sweet Lord became man and subjected himself to everything we face and feel, He does allow us to relate.  And as a mother, I believe I perceive a glimpse into Mary’s heart as Simeon hit the nail on the head.  There is nothing like a child’s joys and trials to both capture our hearts and also pierce our very souls.  Mary received the blessing that was given, but knew that with that would come the piercing.

Seeing as this blog’s theme is navigating life and loss with the foundational perspective that Jesus is indeed making all things new, I want to share something our family has been navigating recently, another “piercing” of sorts… and also a blessing.

We were hoping to share our news this week that we were expecting another precious bundle of joy in late July.  But instead, we are now sharing about our miscarriage.  A loss here on earth.  A gain of another soul created for eternity in heaven. 

Of course, we were crushed as the reality sunk deep.  The big and little thoughts flooding.  I never felt his or her kicks.  I don’t know if the baby is a boy or girl.  The names we were already planning shelved.  No longer guaranteed three children in our Christmas card for next year… Our quiver we hoped filling, once more seeming to regress. 

But you know what has happened?  The amazing, TRULY amazing, part of it all?  I now understand.  I now know what Paul means in Philippians 4:7 when he speaks of “the peace that passes all understanding.”  How?  Because I have it.  I can’t explain it.  It doesn’t make sense in the earthly economy.  It literally passes all my understanding, and it can only be from Jesus.  It’s not that we aren't sad or that this child wasn’t dearly desired, deeply mourned, and still celebrated as a child in heaven.  But deep down, I have peace.  Joy actually abounds. 

Another trial has come; but we are not destroyed. 

Sometimes the trials do not expose weakness as they leave us battered and bruised.  Instead, they reveal strength.  Whose strength?  Christ’s as HE is strong in our weaknesses. 

I get it now, at least in this moment.  I feel His love, even in this.  Something I never thought I would be able to honestly say.  After all, the Lord and I have had something akin to a love/hate relationship over the past four years.  And yet, right now, I simply delight in His love.  We have wrestled, but we have come out stronger.  Wrestling is not a sign of hatred after all; it is a sign of working out the relationship and staying the course… not giving up on another.  Fortunately, the Lord didn’t give up on us.

My heart has been pierced, but I’ve also received the blessing.  The blessing of sacred peace, of supernatural joy.  But also the unexpected gift of a peace in my spirit knowing our son Warren now has a sibling in heaven. Yes I know he is happy and whole with Jesus. But as a mother, it was a love gift from God to be able to know, although it breaks my heart to not physically be with two of my children, that they are together until I join them. And I feel comforted, settled.


So where are we in the aftermath? We are left still waiting.  No longer waiting on July 29 and the baby we expected.  But we wait on the Lord and what He has in store with us. Because of the Lord’s restorative work in our family and our hearts, we don’t wait with the fretting and the fear-driven sense of urgency we have experienced in the past… that frenzied drive to catch up.  Instead, we wait with hope, anticipating the good gifts from a good God in His good time.  All is well.

Look for the strength emerging out of your trials, out of your weakness.  And wait with hope.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
-2 Corinthians 4:8-12

Monday, December 17, 2012

Simeon's Hope

I am guessing many of you read or hear Luke 2 at some point over the Christmas season.  My dad read this to me (wearing his festive red robe as we always demanded) as a little girl as I waited on the stairs leading downstairs, eager to open my presents. 

This past weekend, we read Luke 2 with the boys and Meade’s parents who came to visit and celebrate Christmas early with us.  We had a great time, and Meade and I even successfully roasted a turkey for our “Christmas” dinner.  And a first for me: we had leftovers the rest of the weekend!  The blessing of coming from a big family is that we always went to both my mom’s and dad’s sides for every holiday for TWO feasts.  But, the leftovers remained with the respective grandparents.  So this weekend was a unique treat on many levels.

The Bird
Gifts worth the wait
The boys love their Maddie and Poppy
As we were reading Luke 2, we continued past verse 20.  Following the typically-read Christmas story, Jesus is presented by his parents at the temple in Jerusalem.  Enter Simeon:

        “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles 
and for glory to your people Israel’”  (Luke 2:25-32).

Of course, it is an understatement to say how amazing all of Luke 2 is; but as we read the above passage on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think how profound Simeon’s story is.  Here is a man who has waited on a promise his entire life.  A man who trusted God was faithful and true.  A man who didn’t doubt but simply knew he would witness the coming of the Messiah with his own eyes before he died.  This phrase deeply touches me: “He [Simeon] was waiting for the consolation of Israel.”  Consolation means “comfort” or can even be a noun for the Person who brings comfort and resolve.  The Person who restores and makes our hope founded.

Simeon was waiting for comfort.  Waiting with assurance.  Longing for wrongs to be made right.  Was Simeon shocked to find a baby at the temple that day?  It certainly doesn’t appear that way.  He simply took Jesus in his arms and began praising the Lord.  Simeon quite literally “saw the light” (see the passage’s last sentence). 

As I wrote about earlier this month, the Advent season is about waiting.  Waiting upon the Lord, the true waiting of His saints. 

I don’t know anyone who likes to wait. At the grocery store, we quickly scan the lanes and hope we selected the fastest one.  We count down the days until a package arrives… or a promotion… or a business deal.  It’s a strong verb, but I hate waiting on John’s full healing.  And so often as we wait, time seems to move backward, adding more heaviness to our hearts rather than revealing the progress we’d like to see.  Another school shooting?  This one bigger than so many in the past?  How can this be?  How do we wait for comfort?  Wait for all made new?  Wait when things seem to get worse rather than better?  

I don’t have the answers in or for this broken world.  But Advent waiting, this holy waiting, is proper and right.  It is right to wait with hope, with assurance, upon the One who brings comfort.  The One who brings peace.  The One who showed up and came to Simeon, as was revealed to him  before it became reality.  Simeon’s story brings tears to my eyes.  It is so pure, so beautiful.  Even in an imperfect world and despite all the odds, he did not waiver in his belief.  And his reward: beholding, even while holding, that Great Light, the Savior of the world.


"'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. 
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, 
for the old order of things has passed away.'
He who was seated on the throne said, 
'I am making everything new!' 
Then he said, 'Write this down, 
for these words are trustworthy and true.'"
-Revelation 21:4-5