All Things Are Made New

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Welcome to Our World

 

Welcome to Our World

 

“And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35)

 

On Christmas Day six years ago, a chunky baby boy with golden hair was born. Coffee cups were left behind on tables, wrapping paper and gift boxes were strewn around the family room, and the unlit Christmas tree looked slightly malnourished. Our entire family – fathers, mothers, children, aunts, uncles, and cousins – were gathered at the hospital to welcome the Christmas baby into our world. With gusto and appetite, Hunter Charles left his only known home of amorphous tranquility to join a new sphere of lights, noises, surfaces, and the touching, turning, and cradling of hands holding him in the air he gulped. The baby’s wail brought forth a fresh onslaught of cacophony from the blurred shadows hovering around him. This bewildered man-child seemed to know he was at the mercy of a new world, and he wanted to go back home.

Hunter is now a robust, sensitive, and introspective child. His mop of red hair is as bright as his blue eyes are deep. He stops at no obstacle bigger, harder, or faster than himself, yet he tip toes over sand, cringes at the feel of grass, and panics at the sight of a face cloth. While Hunter’s older brother is quick with words, confident and athletic, Hunter speaks from observation, prefers fun to competition, collects rocks, and nurtures his hamster Rosie. Being with Hunter feels a little like opening a Christmas present.

When I think about the birth of Jesus, I can’t help wonder what it must have been like for Him to leave the ethereal glory of heaven where His company was the encompassing love of His Father and legions of illuminated angels extoling praises as far as He could hear. What did the crash through the eternal hemisphere feel like as the needles of straw met Him on the manger?  Unlike Hunter, Jesus did not come from the world. God gave Him to the world. Yet, this baby was born in a manger among animals, shepherds, strangers, and kings. He, too, gave his first lusty cry, learned to suckle, and felt the chill of night. From the moment of His birth, the Son of God was immersed in the world as the Son of Man.

Christmas Day brings double celebration in our household. The birthday cake for Jesus, decorated with candies and candles, is now shared with Hunter. “Happy Birthday Jesus and Hunter!” sung loud and clear reflects in a boisterous way the joy and gratitude of our family.  As we’ve watched Hunter grow from infant to boyhood, we are reminded that Jesus, too, crawled on floors, splashed in puddles, and prayed at bedtime.

God came to earth as an infant, holy and pure, and as we celebrate His birth we are reminded that He truly was with us, lived among us, and is now within us.  

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Hope

Walking in Hope

 

Hope is as silent as snowfall, as soft as dawn’s first glimmer, as sure as footsteps in sand.

            The Christmas Season is in full swing, with its cast of characters swirling about in every imaginable way. The Nativity is lit near church steps, displayed in a handful of front yards, and portrayed in films and stages. Along with shepherds, donkeys, and camels, we have a lineup of reindeer, snowmen, the Grinch, elves, and the star of them all, Santa Claus. As if this melee of Christmas characters were not enough to remind us to be happy whether we want to be or not, advertisements twist our arms as they blare their holiday wares at every turn.

            It is hard to pull hope out of this mess. Yet, hope is the meaning of the Advent Season, celebrating the birth of the Messiah, for whom the Jews had waited for generations, and our hopes in the future for His return. Even without the stress of the holidays, hope is hard to muster when life’s pressures, tragedies, physical and emotional challenges, and daily mishaps plague us relentlessly, causing even the most pious faith to falter now and then. Where is hope when we need it, and if Christmas offers us a double portion where in the candles, sermons, cantatas, and wrapping paper do we find it?

            Almost an under-study in the Nativity scene, Joseph was so obscure we find ourselves checking to see if he’s a shepherd kneeling beside the Manger. He was a kid, a carpenter, and father-to-be. Like all of the citizens of his village, he had to leave his home and job to travel to Bethlehem, the village of his birth, to register his name for the Roman census. Perhaps the trip would have been only irritating, costing him weeks of productivity at best, but the mandatory journey was made nearly impossible because his betrothed wife, close to delivering their first child, huddled upon the back of his donkey.

            Joseph shows us real hope. Because he chose to believe God, his faith never waivered. Trudging through sandy pathways, he could have entertained bitter and angry thoughts toward the Romans who imposed orders that kept him from work. Instead of kicking brush and throwing rocks, he walked on. The young carpenter could have fretted over his dwindling finances, yet with purpose richer than gold, he walked on. Surely he questioned the validity of his dreamlike encounter with an angel who called himself Gabriel and appeared in the middle of the night to tell him to stay with Mary. He could have succumbed to voices in his head telling him it was only a dream and there was no angel, and what was he doing pulling an ass laden with his pregnant girlfriend all the way to Bethlehem? On he walked. He could have led the donkey and whimpering Mary to one of the many caravans from the other villages and left her in their care. His tarnished reputation and burden would be solved. He knew he hadn’t gotten her pregnant and he didn’t know who had. “God” that angel had said.

Joseph trudged the harsh dusty road toward Bethlehem, tending to Mary as she became more and more uncomfortable, because he trusted God. From the sustenance of his Jewish religion upheld by the prophets’ decrees, and God’s own testimonies, he knew the promise that a Messiah would come to bring freedom for his people. Joseph walked in the living hope for the coming Messiah.

Often, God is not where we expect Him to be, and sometimes it seems He has left the scene, and we lose hope in Him. When we battle life’s onslaught of endless wars fighting for our faith, we must remember the big picture – God’s great purpose of bringing all people back to him. Our little chaos is a friendly skirmish with God’s intended Love covering it. Joseph had world of conflict on his shoulders, yet he believed in the essence of God Who promised not to leave him in the mess and He would bring good from it. As Joseph trod one foot in front of the other through the sand toward Bethlehem, his hope was in God. Upon the swaying braying donkey behind him, immersed in holy water, was the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Immanuel – “God with us”.