The first day of December always calls to me.
Time to sweep the stable clear of any impediments to the entry of the Child. Am I harboring a grudge - unforgiveness towards someone? Have I been judging anyone? Need to ask forgiveness? Hiding some secret sin? Allowing my heart to grow as cold as the bitter winds of winter? Slacking off on the Word? Skipping prayer? Trying to clean myself up instead of bowing before Him and accepting His grace and forgiveness? Allowing fear to rule me instead of faith.?
Someone shared a blurb on the web that brought me up short. It said " Faith is the bridge between where I am and where God is leading me."
I found great wisdom in that little blurb. As one who always seems to fight God's leading, leaving black heel marks on my Christian walk where He has had to drag me from one place to another, trust always seems hard for me. Correction: recognizing God's hand in irritating places is more the problem. Once I know He is in something (which should be recognized all the time!) I can take a deep breath and step off the cliff, trusting in the Everlasting Arms that are underneath me. It's the recognizing part that throws me every time.
Why is it so hard for me to see His hand in the unpleasant/painful/irritating circumstance? While I was still working, God moved my comfortable office to an uncomfortable office, working with a doctor I had difficulty relating to.
Hidden in that office was a Christian sister bereft of friends she trusted, in a hostile office environment. We have been friends for over 20 years now.
Another time I had hurt my back and had to be on light duty. I was moved to a tiny corner of an office worker's small office - and discovered not only another sister, but one who was a kindred spirit as well, and has been as close as an "official" sister to my heart for the last 30 years.
The only situation I recognized was my illness - and that probably because it was so serious I knew it was too big for me to handle! I watched Seas galore part to allow me thru on dry ground, obstacle after obstacle removed from my path, blessing after blessing showered upon me.
So why haven't I learned? Why do I still fret and gnash my teeth and froth at the mouth when something "small" disrupts my daily walk?
And why do I not recognize that with a God as Awesome as ours, they are all small?
This month will be full of hustle and bustle, hither and yon stuff. For once, with my King;s help, I am purposing in my heart to lay it all at His feet - the small stuff as well as the gigantic stuff that immediately drops me face down before Him. To take the irritation to Him. To take the daily hassles and arrows of hurt feelings and dark days to the One Who filtered each hurt feeling and hassle and arrow through loving hands. It seems to me that our Papa loves to teach us through less than comfortable situations. Somehow the pain seems to insure the lesson will be remembered. And it reminds me that Jesus learned obedience "through the things He suffered."
After 20 years delivering babies, the Nativity holds great meaning for me. I often think of the One Who cast aside His crown to be born a baby - to open His eyes for the first time not in a pampered palace nursery but in a cold stone trough, to get His first human-sized view of the world He had come to save. A newborn is a sponge, soaking up every sound, every sight, learning from that first breath on, contrary to popular thought. Newborns mimic facial expressions, begin babbling in vowel, accent and consonant sounds of their particular language, and come complete with behaviors designed to induce bonding: grasping fingers, focusing on black dots on white backgrounds so they establish eye contact immediately. To facilitate this, they instinctively turn their heads to the right, whether they are right or left handed. Since most people are right handed, they will most likely be held in the left arm - and when they turn their faces to the right, they will find eye contact.and, when combined with the rooting reflex, a source of nourishment. All finely tuned behaviors our Father designed for His children. Eye contact and touch are as necessary as food to the newborn, Deprived of them they cannot process foods correctly. and find themselves swallowed by a syndrome known as, simply, " failure to thrive."
I think of how this birth-in-a-stable scenario must have confused Mary and Joseph - how could the Messiah not be born with pomp and fanfare? How they must have wondered what the heck was going on - and felt shamed by how little they could give to this Amazing Child. Did they miss a signal somewhere? Surely God didn't mean for Messiah to be poor! Why was life such a continual struggle when the King of all the earth had been entrusted to their care? Their offering in the temple was two doves - a provision for the very poor to offer. And soon there would be at least 6 more children - four brothers are named in Scripture, plus a mention of "sisters", plural, so there were more than one. At least 7 children, including Jesus, would have to be provided for - plus a hasty trip into Egypt and then a move back to Israel. The visit of the Magi (nowhere does it say three, nor does it call them "kings") provided an easily transported source of funds as well as prophetic gifts to the small family (Jesus is estimated to have been around two years old @ the time of their visit.) I can't imagine how confused they must have been - nothing would have made sense according tot the world's way of doing things.
And somehow, the world's way of doing things had gotten mixed up with the ways of the Israelites - so much so that rich people were considered to be special to God, no doubt holy. By the same reasoning, the poor must be epic sinners or God would bless them with money. So this Child King could not be the Messiah according to their thinking, He must be the child of some pretty horrible sinners (never ending whispers followed Him about how Mary got pregnant before she was married, thus the Pharisees would never lose their condescending attitude towards Jesus).
I have always wondered how the Pharisees could know Jesus had raised several folks from the dead and not recognize Someone with some pretty heavy credentials. They couldn't deny the miracles - even the thugs they sent to arrest Him were thrown to their knees when Jesus answered their identification query with "I am"
And then He picks up the ear Peter chopped off and heals the guy - imagine it! Blood spurting all over his tunic, one second screaming in pain, the next all healed up (I bet there wasn't even a scar!) - and still the guy roughly arrests Jesus!
I sit with open-mouthed amazement when I get to those parts in the Gospel. How is it possible?
And then I look at those black heelmarks on my Christian walk. How I so rarely recognize His hand while something is happening. It's only when I have the distance of time and the Holy Spirit's ministering that I can make sense of what I see, They didn't have the Holy Spirit leading, interpreting, guiding like I do. And even with all that, I still miss the point so often in my life. I truly depend on His mercies being new every morning. I draw great comfort in the fact that underneath are the everlasting Arms, and Romans 8:28 is a word I cling to.
And finally I connect the dots and realize that this is exactly why the Babe had to be born - and die for my sins, and the sins of the world. Because we are so very dense when faced with circumstances not to our liking. Because without the Holy Spirit living in us, leading and teaching us, opening our eyes, we would be without hope.
And hope is what that little Baby signified. "The hopes and fears of all the years." They met in the little town of Bethlehem, one night long ago. And because of that, "whosoever will" may choose to actually meet the Creator of the universe, to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and spend eternity in the presence of God.
Just think of it! What an Awesome God we serve!