Bright light in the fallen darkness
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord – 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord."
(Isaiah 11,1-2, NIV)
"In that day you will say: ‘I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. 2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation.’ 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 In that day you will say: ‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you. (...)"
( Isaiah 12,2 NIV)
"All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away."
(John 6,37, NIV)
My dear friends,
I awoke at 4:50 a.m. on Boxing Day morning. Deep peace enveloped me, a strange absence of pain and sorrow. "It's over" echoed within me, as a realization perhaps, as a consolation surely, well-familiar I heard the voice of the One who has my whole heart.
We had a wonderful devotional time in the midst of Covid and isolation last year when we lit the candles and read Luke's Christmas story on Christmas Eve. My son was old enough at eight to hear the "real" Christmas story-before that we always used the children's Bible. I concluded by saying, "And his birth made people happy, he was born to give us life."
My son looked at me, with that serious look he sometimes has, and said, "I know someone who wasn't happy." "So, who?" I asked eagerly.
"The snake, mama! The snake was not pleased. He was beside himself with rage!"
It left me deeply moved. Yes, this child understands the story, the epic, the darkness that is not God's and yet is palpably all around us.
As if to prove it, just minutes later came the news that organ failure was setting in for my mother, who had valiantly fought her Covid infection. Waiting began. Waiting for death. The cheese in the raclette pans became an obligatory act, lay heavy in the stomach.
Still in the morning we thought that she seemed to be recovering, a last Christmas greeting in the morning reached us- with a kissing hand and a "Merry Christmas", but the transparent glow on her face, the weakness in her voice left doubts. Peace. If I were to describe an image of the last impression, it is peace. Days, nights I had prayed for just that: Peace for a wonderful, strong, selfless, infinitely loving woman. When Jesus woke me, the most urgent question was answered: Is she with you? Yes.
The peace that surpasses understanding, that only He is able to give.
Christmas. It is an incredibly complex feast. I don't know how your heart is feeling so close to Christmas Eve. Not all of us celebrate with our families. I hope for you that you are full of heartfelt joy, that you have lovingly chosen gifts, that you are looking forward to Christmas like a little child. But maybe this year it is not so. Maybe you feel alone - or worse, maybe you are. Maybe your marriage has failed. Or you're trying to keep up the facade while the sand in the gears grinds mightily. Maybe you've recently lost someone you loved. Maybe your heart aches because you can't provide your children with the gifts they so desire. Maybe you face family gatherings with an upset stomach and inner tension because they always leave you with emptiness, a sense of being wrong, conflict and strife.
Christmas. The expectations are high. The social pressure palpable. And yes, we desire that little piece of Eden, longing as children once did, waiting excitedly outside the door of the Christmas room.
John Eldredge says in "All Things New" that after the second death of a close friend, his son looked at him and said with emptiness and despair, "You know, what we have left in the end is just Jesus."
Yes, I say: that is true. Jesus, born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. Foretold and eagerly awaited for centuries. God becomes man and tangible for us in Jesus. "Who is God? What is God like?"
Well, let us consider this rice that sprouted up for us. SO is God. Like him. Like Jesus.
Generations before have wondered what he would be like, the Messiah. Had not seen him. For them, the path of forgiveness and grace was not open. We, we live in remembrance of what was given for us. In Jesus birth and death on the cross, in his resurrection and our reconciliation with God through him, if we only want it.
But we too are waiting. Longingly, for centuries. What will it be like, the establishment of his kingdom? What will it be like to live in a fully reconciled world with him? What will it be like when "all things are new"? We expect his return, hope for it, implore it, and long ago it seems to us like a legend that has been told for generations. No, God is in no hurry.
The good news is: it is not a legend, it is not a prophecy. It is a promise.
Sometimes, when the serpent is beside himself with the birth and victory of Jesus, the only hope that remains is the promise of being saved. In him. Sometimes only Jesus remains.
When you feel like the Christmas holidays are a sword of Damocles, go to the stable. Hear the angels calling you not to be afraid. Experience that you are seen. And invite Jesus to make your heart a Christmas crib. He will come. With his peace that passes understanding. And with the joy that no one can rob you of: The joy of being written in the book of life. The joy of being able to call him friend. And the promise that you are walking towards: The day when everything will be restored. And the earth will shine in new splendor. May this Christmas joy take hold of your whole being and may you meet your Lord in the light of the candles.
And to all, to all my brothers and sisters far and near, I wish that Christmas will be a feast of love, a feast of agapes. At Christmas, the candles shine all over the world and light up the hearts of all those who are in darkness. Today the Savior is born to us. The Prince of Peace. The Savior. The Healer. The light of the world is among us.
Have a very blessed, peaceful and merry Christmas!!
With love and confidence,
The Holy Bible: New International Version, quotes taken from: www.bibleserver.com
Reference to John Eldredge: John Eldredge: All things new. Heaven, Earth and the restoration of everything you love, Thomas Nelson, 2017, P. 55 ( indirect quote, Dialogue Sam & John Eldredge)