Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Christmas Gift for All

Last night, I was blessed to attend a moving Christmas Eve service with our church family. I sat with our boys, my husband officiated, and our young daughter joined the sopranos in the adult choir. Surrounded by music, she had front row seats to the strings and wind sections and loved every minute of it. Songs like The First Noel and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel filled my heart with the joy of Christmas in a special way, knowing one of those voices came from our sweet daughter. 

Of all the heartwarming songs, the most special for me this year was Silent Night. As the clergy knelt at the altar, their backs to the congregation, we were drawn to join them to worship the newborn king. I felt like one of the shepherds beholding the child at the manger. Time seemed to stand still as these scriptures reminded me of the hope of God's promise,

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)

My child, along with everyone at the altar, led us to worship the child who leads us to a life of grace, of mercy, of forgiveness. He ushered an eternal kingdom in a temporal, broken world; a kingdom of justice and grace in a world in desperate need. In his kingdom of peace, love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other (Psalm 85:10).

When I lie down to sleep tonight, memories of this Christmas day will fill my mind. I will recall our festive hats, gifts exchanged with the best neighbors, our family walks, hugs, and laughter, the clever homemade Jeopardy game I lost gladly to well-educated children, meaningful texts full of grace and cheer, phone calls, invitations, cookies, and conversations with loved ones not seen nearly enough. I will also recall specific gifts, like the perfect laptop case and the various homemade gifts that will bring lasting joy.

And after all quiets down, my heart will swell as I give thanks once more for the greatest gift of all, the gift that makes all good things possible. James 1:17 reminds us that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. As I lie down to sleep, I will give thanks for the One who came wrapped in swaddling cloths to enter an imperfect world and fill it with light, mercy, and grace.

This week we were blessed to seefor just a few seconds—a full moon over our Christmas tree. Having visited Assisi, the home of St. Francis, this summer, my first reaction was to welcome Sister Moon, as he called her. Then I thought of John 9:5, where Jesus proclaimed, 

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

Sister Moon over our tree. (© 2018)
I'm so glad I took a photo right away, for about two minutes later, we couldn't see the moon anymore. 

The good news of Christmas is that the light of Christ does not dim or depart the heart that welcomes it. The good news is that he's here to stay, meeting us right where we are, and replacing our chaos with order, our fears with hope, and what is dead with life. And the great news is that he came for all, just as we are. 

This Christmas, perhaps more than ever, I am so grateful for the gift of life, health, friendship, and love. I am grateful for the gift of faith, family, and love. And I am grateful for the gift of time to embrace and know the One who made himself small and vulnerable—for you and for me.

I wish you a blessed and meaningful Christmas season full of all the goodness that comes down from the Father of lights.

Dr Mari

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