I also just heard a light falling of rain on the house and the clap of thunder. Everything is so dreary outside. Winter shows no color. The trees are bear of their foliage, the grass is turning brown. My rose bushes are covered with hay. Yet the rain is just a part of events preceding spring and "the hope to come".
And in front of me is our Christmas tree, lights on, and the smallest amounts of gifts under it since we have owned it. It has been a rough year financially. There is little to give with. Yet, I am okay with that. There is "hope to come" even in this.
I have struggled to get into the "holiday" mood. I put very little decorations out and cut down on how much I even put on the tree. It's a simple Christmas in the Arnold/Mansell home this year...like it should be. Simply put, Joe and I have one binding goal of unity for this family..."a hope to come".
A few post ago I wrote about the loss of our friend and camp ministry partner Lois. Yesterday her husband wrote these words and I feel inclined to share them with you. They remind us that for those of us who have struggled in whatever way that fell before us, it can be connected spiritually to the birth of Christ and what we have in Christ. Jim Wrote...
There were no Super 8 motels along the way, no paved road, no rest areas with toilets. They must’ve stopped often looking for a tree or rock Mary could lean against to urinate. Most likely they looked in vain for clean, fresh water using only what they carried in old, stinky skins or moldy jars. The risk of thieves, storms, and cold only added to the discomfort of the impending labor and birth of Mary’s first child.
Was her mother there? A sister maybe? Probably not since Mary got pregnant out of wedlock and brought shame on her whole family, they most likely stayed away as if she’d had leprosy. We know there wasn’t a hospital; instead they found themselves in a stable. No running water, no electricity, no space heater to chase away the chilly night air. There were “meadow muffins” and “cow pies” on the ground and some of them were fresh enough to throw off steam – the smell must’ve been overwhelming.
The whole situation was untenable. None of us would’ve stuck it out. We can’t even begin to imagine the pain and disappointment and loneliness. Mary and Joseph must certainly have wondered where God was in all this. Why now? Why here? We could go on to describe the poverty, hardship and rejection that Joseph and Mary and Jesus endured in those first few days but nothing we can imagine comes close.
This year God is allowing me a new appreciation for the incarnation. It was far from romantic, nostalgic and sentimental. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus were difficult and full of disappointment and pain. Christmas has taken on a new, deeper meaning. If Mary and Joseph and even Jesus as a baby were not spared hardship and difficulty, why would I expect anything else?
I can’t explain away the reality of grief or the myriad of ways I miss Lois but I do know that God is more real than I have ever experienced. His presence and power shove the clichés out of the way and strengthen my resolve to “come near to God “so He will “come near to” me. (see James 4:8).
What gift will you give God this season in appreciation of His Son? I plan to give a new gift. I have purchased a special journal for 2010 in which I plan to log 365 days of praises and trust. I plan to record a piece of scripture that correlated with praising Him or trusting Him. I then plan to record how I have carried that out each day. It may be a challenge but 365 days of praises and trust is what He seeks from us, is it not? I have not been good at doing this in the past. What can you give God in your 365 day gift?
guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. ~ Ps 25:4-5
A hope to come...the promise we have as we settle in to honor the birth of our Savior. The gifts under that tree seem so meaningless. May we embrace our circumstances. Even more, may we embrace Him.
Merry Christmas friends and blessings for "a Hope to come"!