Christmastime! For me, no matter what the year had brought or what the circumstances may have been, the songs of Christmas brought renewal and anticipation. “O Holy Night” … “Silent Night, Holy Night” … They are reminders of the “holy one” which the angel foretold of to Mary, this baby who grew to show us the way and to bring us hope (*Luke 1:35).
Holy, special, set apart, belonging to God. The words and songs bring to heart and mind the mystery and awe of God and of coming before Him in worship and praise. Can you imagine it? Can you see and hear the story unfolding on that holy night?!
And the angels rejoiced at the birth of His Son to a world so in need of him. Like the shepherds drawn to the stable and the wise men who came from distant lands, we are drawn to that baby, Jesus. The light of that star is the light we too seek.
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth… Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.
The holiness of God. The holiness of that night. The holiness of infant Jesus, God’s Son, Emmanuel (*Matthew 1:23). When the world is dark and cold. Emmanuel. When the sun rises fresh and bright. Emmanuel. When we miss loved ones. Emmanuel. When the lights of Christmas shine. Emmanuel…
I am thankful for that holy infant Jesus, who came to us on a dark night. When I struggle with doubts and fears or am feeling worn or alone or afraid, the events of Jesus’ birth are welcome reminders of God’s holiness and presence. When joy and happiness surround me from family and friends and awesome new life, the Christmas story draws me into the life of that other family so long ago.
May the light of that star and the events of that story draw you too to our holy God and bring you comfort and peace. —————
Luke 1:35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. NIV
Matthew 1:23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” NRSV
The hum of the big exhaust fan in the window of our upstairs hallway signaled the beginning of another summer evening. As night drew closer, the familiar voices and sounds of my family about the house or in the yard were comforting and familiar. In those days of yesteryear, I see myself stretched out on my bed or curled up on my window seat reading a good book or just watching life from my bedroom window. To this day these same things in my own home bring contentment and peace.
We always closed the windows and retreated to the cooler lower floor during the day as summer’s heat began to build around mid-morning. Then, as evening’s cool touch came, the windows were opened, and the fans began to draw out the warm air that had built up in our upstairs rooms through the day. I remember breathing deeply of the cool night’s air as it was drawn in and listening to the sounds of life… the voices of insects, tree frogs, and owls and the rhythm of our small-town. The refreshing coolness brought a sense of peace and renewal, especially if the day had been long or difficult.
The windows of our hearts can be like those rooms on hot summer days. Sometimes we close them – perhaps due to doubt, anger, or fear – as we seek to guard ourselves or to declare our own will. I know that when I am hurt, let down, angry, or disappointed I too tend to withdraw and shut off as much as possible from its source. This may bring some relief for a time, until there is room for healing and the opening of those windows.
As we beat against the ills we see, so that our ears are deafened to all else, God’s cool healing breath washes over our world. May we not fail to see and feel it! There is injustice in this world, but there is also the breath of God. Like those fans, as we open our hearts to God, His breath fills us and draws from us that which is stale and stifling… that which has caused hurt.
Have you considered the breath of God? As in the beginning of time, “then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” *
We are living beings, whom God loves, and He said it was very good. *
My prayer for our world is that we will know God’s refreshing and renewing breath. I pray that He will draw from us that which is stale and stifling, driven by hurt, and fill us with the hope of His Spirit.
Ah! The joy of releasing tired, hot feet from the confines of shoes and socks! My mom and I used to kid about our “hillbilly blood” because our shoes inevitably fell off when we came home. Warm summer rain showers were the perfect opportunity for my brothers and me to splash barefoot up and down our gravel drive in town. On summer trips with the family, I remember digging my toes into the soft warm dirt of my grandparents’ country drive. Have you ever walked through a wet vegetable garden and ended up doubling the thickness of the soles of your shoes with mud?! Just walking becomes an effort.
Sometimes our lives get like that, mired down with stuff that drags us down and overwhelms. We splash barefoot before God in our pain and doubt and it is difficult to see joy. When His wonderful grace and love showers down upon us, we in our weariness do not always see it. We may be unable to receive until it has had time to soak in. I love the words of the psalmist who wrote, (God) lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. * Like on those warm summer days, we can dig our toes into the strength of His being. God lifts us up and sets us on solid ground. What joy and release when we stand with Him in faith, free of the confines of life which weigh us down!
Elijah! I love Elijah. Mighty prophet of God. Strong. Assured. Obedient to God’s commands. Through Elijah, God displayed His authority and great power to the people of Israel who had turned away! Fire from heaven burned up the soaking wet sacrifice… after futile attempts by the priests of Baal, god of fertility and nature, were unsuccessful. “Your god is no god!” … and 450 prophets of Baal perished.
Through Elijah, God withheld rain and a great drought resulted.
Through Elijah, God ended this drought with wind and pouring rain… and Elijah miraculously ran before the chariot of King Ahab to a town fourteen miles away.
…Then a vengeful Queen Jezebel declared death to Elijah and he ran away in fear… and ran… and ran… until he ended up in a faraway cave in which to hide.
I love Elijah! Doesn’t his story express the fear and discouragement we all feel at times? “I have given you my all God!” “Haven’t I obeyed you as best I can? I’ve been very busy doing all these things for You.” …“Now look at these hard-headed, self-centered, angry people! They have rejected you and killed all your other prophets and now I’m the only one left!”… “It’s useless. I might as well die too!”
So God passed by before that cave. There came a great wind, earthquake, and fire… but God was not in them. He who had spoken so forcefully and powerfully previously, so that all would know His authority, did not speak through them this time… God had Elijah’s full attention! But where was God?!
Then there came a still small voice, a quiet calm. Elijah heard the voice of God asking the same question He had asked before, “What are you doing here Elijah?” …and, still focused on himself, Elijah gave the same answer!
But in the quiet of that moment, came assurance that God was with him. “Go back Elijah. I have a job for you. There will be others to help you, kings to anoint and a prophet to succeed you. Why, there are 7000 prophets who will rise up to serve me!”
I love Elijah! His story gives us all hope and assurance. “Go back. I’m with you. You are not alone,” God says. So He speaks in that still small voice, in quiet calm amidst our storms. God had not given up on them. He hadn’t given up on Elijah and He hasn’t given up on us! He is mighty. He is faithful.
[Read Elijah’s story in 1 Kings Chapters 17-19 & 2 Kings Chapter 2.]