Christmas Day is cited by many to be their favorite holiday.
But for me, it has always been Christmas Eve.
Hearing the story of Jesus’ birth and the candlelight service are familiar and comforting.
Watching the candles illuminate the room while singing Silent Night is like a balm to my soul.
Peace and hope fill my heart.
Yet despite the familiarity of the service this year, something new caught my eye.
At the end of each row high above the pews, taper candles were lit by the acolyte before the service began.
As I listened to the songs and the scripture, I kept getting distracted by how some of the candles were burning quicker than the others.
The wax from one candle in particular had melted over the side of the pew, leaving only a small flame where a tall candle once stood.
This candle had burned brightly, but was gone even though others seemed to be just getting started.
Sometimes I wonder why these things catch my eye, but in those moments I know God has something to say.
This year some lights have burned out more quickly than others.
The unimaginable death of a young person that leaves a family with pain in their hearts so raw.
The end of a relationship that you thought would last.
The healthy person who now faces a terminal illness.
Words seem to be so inadequate in these moments.
Being present to surround those facing hardships with love, is at times, the most we can do.
And then there is this story.
The one I love to hear every year.
That is like a balm to my soul.
The one that fills my heart with peace and hope.
Because it is about the One who fills me with peace and hope.
“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born; and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in a blanket[a] and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.
That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly an angel appeared among them, and the landscape shone bright with the glory of the Lord. They were badly frightened, but the angel reassured them.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem! How will you recognize him? You will find a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger!”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,” they sang,[d] “and peace on earth for all those pleasing him.” Luke 2: 6-14 TLB
Friends, I don’t know what makes your heart ache today.
But the light of our Savior is one that will never go out.
May His story fill you with peace and hope today and in the New Year.
Two words that begin the unraveling.
What if I didn’t do enough?
What if I had gone sooner?
What if I had not gone at all?
What if I had been a better son or daughter?
Reflection is necessary to help us gain perspective.
But this contemplation was never meant to rob us of our peace or cast shame and guilt our way.
Sometimes it implies that we have more control than we do in this world.
What if can paralyze us from moving forward.
What if it doesn’t work out?
What if I fail?
What if I make the wrong choice?
What if others think less of me?
Two words that can cast a shadow over us.
Many occasions have occurred over the past month that those I hold close to my heart asked this very question.
In a world that feels out of control, where people are suffering from deep hurts and unimaginable losses, peace seems out of reach.
We all search for a light in the darkness of despair.
In those moments I try to shift my focus from what if to what is….
When everything around me feels like it is changing, I fix my eyes on the One who never changes.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 TLB
Doubts may change the way others see us or the way we see ourselves.
But God only sees us through the eyes of love.
He has always had a plan for us..
Read His promise in The Message.
“How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.” Ephesians 1:4-6
Friends, He took pleasure in planning this all along!
God was not worried about the what ifs in our lives.
Despite our doubts, we can always be sure of what is:
His unfailing, never ending love for all of His children.
As I ascended the stairs of the apartment, I had only one thing on my mind.
I couldn’t wait to throw my arms around my son.
He turned his face toward mine, and I felt a sense of relief that I had not felt in over a month.
Squeezing him for the first time in 34 days, I may have let my countdown calendar slip.
“Mom, you have really been counting the days?”
Was this really a question?
Of course I had!
As I soaked up his presence, I wanted to know the details of his day to day life.
There was nothing my heart wanted more than to know everything.
Friends, this is how our Heavenly Father feels about us.
He cannot wait for us to turn our face toward Him so He can wrap His arms around us.
In His presence is where He longs for us to be.
Even though our Creator is all knowing, there is nothing His heart wants more than for us to share everything with Him.
God wants to share with the fullness of His love as He makes His home in our hearts.
“May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!”
Ephesians 3:17-19 AMPC
Standing in the apartment gazing at my child, I wondered if he would ever understand the depth of my love for him.
But more importantly, I want Him to know the depth of the love his Heavenly Father has for him.
My prayer is that you know that same love, too.
He is waiting for you to turn to Him.