The part of the Christmas Story You Never Hear

There is a part of the Christmas story that doesn't fit into our nicely packaged Nativity scenes.  A part of the story for which no songs are written.  A part of the story that we skip over on our Christmas morning readings.  A part we'd rather not think about...

Yet Scripture includes it, and prophets prophesied about it and it is, in fact, part of the story:

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”
We leave it out because it stands in stark contrast to the joy of the season. It makes us uncomfortable.  There are no warm fuzzies attached to it.  There are no theological statements that make the uncomfortable questions in our minds cease.

But maybe, just maybe, we do ourselves a disservice by leaving it out.  Maybe the sweet, perfect picture we paint ends up excluding the harsh reality of the world that Jesus willingly chose to come into. And we could stop and say, "That's not fair.  Why didn't the angel warn all the mothers?  Did God only care for His own son?"  

But we know there is more to the story and that there is a point when God does not spare His own Son and does let Him fully live out the depths of the evilness of this world.  And we forget that Joseph and Mary did, in fact, need to flee.  Immediately before this passage in Matthew 2:13-15 Joseph has to flee in the middle of the night with Mary and Jesus to Egypt. Jesus did not live in a magical bubble where no sadness, fear or pain never crossed His path.  No, God came down in flesh, to live with us, Emmanuel, to share in our burdens, our trials and our pain so we could trust Him, so we could turn to Him in our deepest moments of need, so that we could know that He truly does care:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

This part of the story shows that God is fully aware of the darkness this world contains.  This part of the story, reminds us that the intersection between humanity & God's full redemption is still being worked out.  This part of the story reminds us that Jesus walked in the real world, our world and that somehow in God's mystery that even in the darkest of nights, Emmanuel, is with us.  It reminds us that there is a reason why Jesus came.  Finally it reminds us that today, in our darkest night, God is with us, and that the last chapter is yet to be written.

In the midst of the Christmas story,
Innocence is lost.
Shining eyes - this world no longer sees.

A cry pierces the silent night,
"God don't you see?"
It echoes on and on...

A sweet baby rests on His mother's chest
as in the chill of the night he is whisked
 away to safety. 
Does He too know that there will be a day
when He says,
"God, why have you forsaken me?"

A cry pierces the silent night,
"God don't you see?"
It echoes on and on...

till it reaches 
Calvary.

Here's a song that accompanies the sentiments of this post: https://youtu.be/YmZlYiMCvSc

A Very Present Help

During Daily Prayer this morning, I read Psalm 46.  It seemed very timely for my life, the lives of the people whom I love and am praying for, and for our country during this intense season.

I find that when a scripture stands out to me that much, that it is helpful to actually take the time to write it down by hand.  The reason being is it helps me to sit with the words, roll them over in my mind and embed them through prayer into my spirit.  As I did this, I was continually surprised by the words and phrases that jumped out at me that I had missed by merely reading.

This particular psalm is filled with a back and forth volley between the reality of who God is and the current circumstances of the world.

He is our refuge and strength despite the fact that the world is in tumult around us.

The imagery of drowning in overwhelming waters is subdued by the image of the river of peace flowing into the city of God.  He says, He will not be moved.  

As I read it, I remembered recently taking my daughter's head into my hand as she wept about a problem that was overwhelming her.  As I lifted her eyes to meet mine I said, "If you stare at the problem, it will not go away.  But if you lift your eyes and look around you - at all the people who love you, are surrounding you and cheering you through this time - then the problem won't seem so overwhelming."  These verses to me were like God asking me to lift my own eyes from the problems that surround me and place my eyes on Him, where He is sitting enthroned with full confidence and peace.

This psalm, however, recognizes our humanness and the scene is quickly ripped back again onto the shaking and quivering that surrounds the time period.  It is answered by the quiet whisper - the Lord is with us, He is our stronghold. This is how he operates.

Just - be still and know that I am God.

_____________________________________________

If the circumstances and situations of your life right now are taking you on this roller coaster of emotions, I pray that your soul and spirit will find solace in Psalm 46.  I encourage you to take time to hand-write this psalm down and see the places where He grasps your heart, mind and spirit.

In Christ,

The Conversation of Creation



The wind rustling through the air.
The sun creeping to far away places.
 The clouds drifting - 
a constantly changing canvas.
 The grasses swaying in the wind.
The birds joining in
Sounds.
The conversation of creation surrounds us constantly
 - from the large to the very small. 
This is just the surface;
it barely scratches all that is there. 
Yet, 
we can't take it all in, 
we can't hold it all - 
the amazement, 
the wonder
 it slips through our hands 
The conversation of love and sustenance
Surrounds.



You didn't need to say much more.
Actually anymore. 
But 
you chose to step in 
to bring love beyond 
what constantly surrounds
what we've grown so accustomed to
 that we stopped 

Listening. 
You took on the simplicity, 
the regularity of our humanity
 and you added another element,
an element of 

Love. 
It started as a baby's cry piercing the night,  
then the laughter of a little child, 
to the deep breaths of a man
creating, building. 
It moved to the cries, 
the tears of loss. 
The rejection
 of acquaintances, friends, those closest to you. 
You were whipped, 
spat upon and through it all you choose to say, 
"Father forgive them." 

In the commonness of everyday man
you chose to come and share the story of the uncreated One
- The story of love-
 every step of the way,
 the crescendo of 

Acceptance.

__________________________________________________________

Amazing Creator of both big and small,
thank you 
for taking the time to show us your hands aren't too large
to hold our very small.


In Christ, 

In light of terror




When I think about the evil and the world today and consider what terror is - I see it as evil that doesn't have a "face to name."  While we do label the evil we see in the news today in numerous ways: ISIS, racism, guns, religious extremism, etc. there doesn't seem to be a specific name, a specific place or a person "to blame."  While in the past, we were able to name and target evil, for instance saying "Hitler" we knew if we could take him down then the majority of the issues could eventually reach a resolution.  But now, as we awake each morning, holding our breath to see if and where tragedy has hit and through whom, there does not seem to be a specific evil that we can unite together, attack and eliminate.

This has caused me to stop and reflect on God and His ways.  Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven as a mustard seed - it starts small yet it grows.  Our world looks for and asks for leaders who dominate, take over, lead.  But God approaches leadership in the opposite way - discreet, with time, allowing roots to grow deep, being established and then emerging in such a way that there is stability, strength and protection.  In addition, He is well aware that His kingdom currently coexists with evil and for now He allows this.  Understanding this should help us not to be overwhelmed, in despair or without hope.

Instead, we should recognize that we are set-up precisely in the way that God intended and that we are the carriers of His kingdom here on earth.  While we can't pinpoint these atrocities to one face, what we do see through the news are individuals.  Individuals who worked jobs, were married, went to school etc.  People who rubbed shoulders with others on a daily basis.  This world is full of individuals who need to not only hear about the truth of God's love but need to see it, feel it and receive it.  The way this is done is through His individual children seeing, hearing and providing the reality of that love.  This is the kingdom way.

My prayer is that we as the body of Christ, would not lose hope in the light of terror.  That we would not be confused, overwhelmed or at a loss for what our role is today.  That we would be faithful to our call to love and would open our eyes to see that the very individuals we interact with on a daily basis, whether through work, at home, in the grocery store etc, are the very human beings whose lives we touch and spread the seeds of His kingdom.  May His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Christ,



I mourn, with hope

Today I mourn.

Yesterday I mourned.

I mourned for the history that has brought us to these days.  I mourned for slavery, for lynching, for Rodney King to Philando Castile and everyone in between.

I mourn for the officers killed in Dallas last night.

I mourn for the African-American man who's heart beats faster today when he passes a police car in the street.

I mourn for the loved ones who send their officers to work today, unsure if tragedy and pain will meet them today.

I mourn that though we've come so far, there is a chasm threatening to grow that causes us to choose sides,  to use the words "they" & "them" instead of "us."

As my husband and I discussed Philando last night, unaware that tragedy was co-occurring in Dallas, he adamantly asked, "What is the solution?"

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."

As I read the news of Dallas this morning and coupled it with the sorrow I was already feeling for Philandro, I wanted a way to express my sorrow, my anger, my frustration.  I wanted the biblical sackcloth and ashes to rip and display that I indeed am mourning.  So today I wear a black cloth on my arm, cut from clothing as a sign to simply show that I mourn.


As Johnny Cash expressed in his song, "Man in Black,"
 

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.


I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.


The black is there as a reminder to me that things are not right, that I need to pray.  It also serves as an opportunity to talk to others and say, "I am listening, I care, I hurt and I too want to see change."

After I wrote the first part, I also tore white and added it to my arm band.  I added white to show that I mourn with hope and belief.  I know that we are capable of change, I know that we are capable to love better.  I know that the people who mourn today, need to be ministered to, need to be loved, need to make a choice with where their hearts will land - if they will choose to forgive or not.  The cycle needs to be broken.

The Lord God has put his Spirit in me,
    because the Lord has appointed me to tell the good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to comfort those whose hearts are broken,
to tell the captives they are free,
    and to tell the prisoners they are released.
He has sent me to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness
    and the time when our God will punish evil people.
He has sent me to comfort all those who are sad
and to help the sorrowing people of Jerusalem.
I will give them a crown to replace their ashes,
    and the oil of gladness to replace their sorrow,
    and clothes of praise to replace their spirit of sadness.



In Christ,


Daily Prayer

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