Christmas

All posts tagged Christmas

Blessings that Feel Like Curses

Published November 27, 2017 by Dawn

“Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.”

It was one of the most pivotal moments in Mary’s life. How many dreams did she have about her future? She was betrothed already, and would soon be married to a highly esteemed man. She had a flawless reputation. Her character was such that she was not just a child of God, she was a favorite. While she dreamed of the white picket fence and a yard full of kids, all two years apart, her Father had big plans for her.

I wonder what kind of disposition Mary had when remembering this moment as God’s plans unfolded in her life. From that moment on, nothing looked quite like she thought it would. She was pregnant with no alibi. The man she was engaged to wanted to leave her. While the Bible does say Gabriel explained everything to Joseph so he wouldn’t leave, it doesn’t say anything about a town hall meeting so everyone else knew that Mary was still pure and virtuous. Her reputation took a fall. No wonder she immediately left town to go to Elizabeth’s!

I’ve been thinking about this for days now. Mary’s “blessing” probably felt like a curse sometimes. First the pregnancy, then the long journey on a donkey in her last trimester. Giving birth in a stable. Fleeing to Egypt not long after becoming a new mom. Raising a son whose thoughts were often otherworldly and strange. When Jesus was twelve, he told his mom he stayed behind in Jerusalem so he could “be about my Father’s business.” He wasn’t talking about Joseph.

Gabriel had warned Mary about Jesus’ mission. That he would be despised, rejected and crucified. I wonder how often she thought about that, and how gracious she was when her emotions overwhelmed her. Gabriel had told her a sword would pierce her own heart too. God’s favor and blessings in Mary’s life felt like pain and agony from the start. I imagine she lost perspective sometimes. I wonder if she ever knelt in prayer and poured out bitterness instead of praise.

More than anything, I wonder if perhaps we have gotten it all wrong. Have we decided that blessings in our lives are curses and vice versa? When trouble comes because of things we know are the will of God, how often do we lose perspective and struggle to hold on to promises? Likewise, how often do we look at the things of this world that distract us and keep us complacent and decide in our hearts that they must be blessings simply because of how they make us feel? We get comfortable and love it that way, but what would God be doing in our lives if allowed to have His way? Would it be any less His will just because it causes us turmoil?

As I thought about Mary, I realized that God didn’t call her blessed because He had a life of ease planned out for her. I think He called her blessed because He had chosen her to bring glory to Him. In spite of all the pain, God trusted Mary to raise Jesus. She was His faithful servant and God was pleased with her. His gift just didn’t always feel like a blessing. I wonder, though, if her response was always just as kind and gracious as it was that first day when Gabriel broke the news to her. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

I’m not always that gracious. Actually, I’m not sure I’m ever that gracious. I want to be, and it’s been my prayer for a while, but when God allows things that hurt – things that break me – I don’t respond like Mary. I weigh the things God allows against the pain they cause and decide from there whether they are a blessing or a curse. But I think I’m doing it all wrong. The Bible makes it clear that oftentimes, walking in the will of God hurts something fierce. The pain doesn’t make it any less the will of God, or any less a blessing. The blessing, after all, isn’t in how much we benefit. The blessing is solely about the glory of God being revealed through our lives. It exists in the way our trials make us less worldly and more like Christ. If being broken was the will of God for Mary, and the will of God for Jesus, how can we expect it to be any less His will for us?

I believe we can take comfort in the fact that in all of the brokenness and despair, every person that endured the will of God in the Bible and was obedient, brought glory to God. Their stories have stood the test of time and remain to remind us that God’s will is ultimately for our good, even when it doesn’t feel good. May God continue to bless us, and give us strength to bear it.

 

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Perfectly Imperfect

Published December 18, 2014 by Dawn

In between Santa and the Grinch, there’s an ugly Minion on my Christmas tree. Well, I say he’s ugly. Actually, I think he’s cute. He’s just a little … imperfect.

I made him a few weeks ago during family craft night. My kids and I tried our hands at decorative ornaments, and ended up with three minions. My daughter’s turned out just like the picture we took the idea from. I helped my son (he fell asleep and I finished his), and also made my own. I messed them both up. I was a little too ambitious with the glitter glue. Our two minions have droopy silver goggles, which makes their faces look distorted and, well, ugly.

I was going to fix them, because that’s what I do when I mess things up. I immediately try to fix them, and erase any evidence to suppose they were ever imperfect. I even toyed with the idea of throwing them away, because I can’t stand to look at something that I’ve made that screams “failure!” But I haven’t yet, and so I’m sitting here looking at him. And his ugly little face is looking at me. And for the first time in my life, I have decided to make peace with the imperfect in my life.

This is new. Trust me. Just two weeks ago, I was fixing some painted tiles I had made because they had become scratched, and dust had settled into the clear coat while they were drying. Which wasn’t a big deal on most of them, but I had some pure white tiles that showed anything and everything, and I was so upset that they weren’t pristine like I wanted them to be. And then while I was “fixing” them, I kept smudging things, and messing up paint, and I eventually got so frustrated, I hurled a tile onto the floor. And put a deep gouge in my wooden floor. Over an imperfect tile. Over a work of my hands that didn’t turn out like I envisioned it. I hated it! I hated all of them! There were tiles laid out over my whole table and it seemed like a huge display of my own inabilities and imperfections. As if I needed to be reminded of how incapable and imperfect I am. I was overwhelmed with hatred and self-loathing.

I’ve decided to make peace with this minion because for the first time in my life, I want it to be okay to be imperfect. Because no amount of self-loathing and no amount of furious fixing will ever make me perfect. It’ll never make my kids perfect, or my life perfect, or my job, or my family, or my house, or my efforts. I’ve finally come to the realization that perfection is an illusion, and I’m done chasing it.

Not only do I want to be okay with imperfections, I want my kids to be okay with them too. I want them to look at their failures and be able to move on, past them, and try again. Or do something else. Because this chasing after perfection has literally paralyzed me for years. And depressed me. And made me hate myself. And even hate other people because they aren’t perfect either. And I think I’ve missed out on a lot of life that way. And I’ve missed opportunities to love, and to grow, and to be happy. All because I am not perfect.

The most wonderful thing I’ve realized from keeping this little minion on my tree in spite of its flaws is that this form of acceptance is something of our Creator. So many of us hate ourselves, and hate others because we’re imperfect, and their imperfect, and we imagine that God is so distraught over our imperfections that He’s going to reject us and throw us out, or fix us. And I believe that He does intend to fix us if we are willing. But I don’t think He hates us. I don’t think we stir up a passionate hatred in Him with our failures and our flaws. Because God is love. And as long as we are repentant and we keep coming back to Him, He’ll have us. And He’ll love us. And He’ll keep us. He doesn’t reject us. His Word says He will never leave us or forsake us, so He’s in it for the long haul. He’s committed to the works of His hands, and so we don’t have to hate ourselves when we mess up. And we can give grace to others when they mess up. Because we are all imperfect people wholly and dearly loved by a perfect God. He makes up the hedge in our lives, and in Him, we are the righteousness of Christ.

 

“You are the Light of the World…”

Published November 24, 2012 by Dawn

I put up the Christmas tree last night and I must admit, I’m still adoring it today. It’s the homemade kind: fake tree adorned with ornaments we’ve collected over the years. It may be less attractive to someone who’s used to manufactured beauty. This tree was decorated by my daughter and I, not an interior designer. But to us, it’s beautiful.

As I sit here enjoying the comfort of hot tea, watching the lights twinkle and dance around the tree, I am reminded of Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world… (Matt. 5:14).” Considering this ‘word’ in the light of my Christmas tree, a whole  new set of adjectives I’ve never associated with lights come to mind. I’ve always considered the words “bright”  and “illuminating,” along with “warm” and “inviting.” But how about “mesmerizing” or “dazzling”? Or how about “captivating”? And as all my cares and concerns fade while I lose myself to the rhythmic chase of green, blue, red and white, I can add “tranquil” to my list.

The only problem with this list is that, as I lengthen it, I become more uncertain of my ability to be the light of the world. After all, how can I ever become all of these things? What does it mean to be bright and illuminating? Warm and inviting? Mesmerizing and dazzling? Captivating? Tranquil? I guess to understand my roll as “the light of the world” I have to first understand the nature of light.

I’ve been studying these lights for well over an hour now, which I’m not afraid to admit because it’s Saturday and there’s nothing on my schedule until this evening. It isn’t hard to understand the first two attributes: bright and illuminating. It is the brightness of the light that enhances everything around it. I very much doubt that the ornaments on my tree would appeal as much to me if it were not for the brilliance of the lights around them. Of course, light also illuminates things and exposes the hidden things of darkness. We have a tradition of hiding a small ornament on the tree every year, which is almost impossible to find if I do my job right. But I am very careful not to hide it by the lights because exposure is the nature of light. Not that the lights must react to what’s hidden. By simply being what it was created to be and doing what it was created to do, light exposes things.

In a similar way, it is not hard to understand the next two attributes: warm and inviting. Ever sat beside a fireplace? In my opinion, a fireplace is one of man’s best creations. There is nothing more warm and inviting than a fireplace. When the world becomes cold and the winds are harsh, a fireplace invites the weary to settle down and enjoy the warmth of it’s fire. Likewise we, as Christians, should by our very nature, be a respite for the weary. Those who have been too long in the cold, harsh world should be compelled by our glow and warmth to come near to Christ and settle themselves in His comforting arms.

The next two attributes are not so easy to understand in the application of this ‘word’: mesmerizing and dazzling. If you have ever watched the sunlight shimmer off the surface of a lake, you know how light can be both mesmerizing and dazzling. The sunlight seems to dip and sway, dancing above the surface, bending to kiss the water and undulating to the rhythm of the waves. To watch is to be hypnotized by nature. But how do we, as Christians, become equally mesmerizing?  By mirroring Christ to such a degree that people who witness our walk cannot help but watch our lives and our relationships. Our dance with Him captures their attention like light striking the surface of  water, and they are compelled to watch because of the beauty reflected in our walk with Christ.

Once people notice our light, once they appreciate the beauty of Christ through us, they cannot help but be captivated by Him because to be captivating is the nature of light. Our sincere desire for Him and our earnest pursuit of Him becomes something people cannot resist. They will follow. They will yearn for Him because they can see through us that in Christ, there is tranquility. The worries of this world fade away in the light of who He is. In this fallen world, that is truly something to be desired.