If I Was at the Manger…

Christmas is almost here and I want to spend more time thinking about what it means before it’s all over and life rushes forward. I want to think with my words: to stop slow at the manger and breathe- and grasp something of what it means. So I want to try and do that in a blog post, if that’s ok.

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I want to imagine, for a few moments, that I’m there too- in that world-famous little stable in the tiny little town of Bethlehem. It’s just me imagining, but here goes…

There, in the manger, lies a baby. He is weak and vulnerable. He is newborn, only a few hours old. He may be shivering. There may be baby cries. It is probably dirty and smelly and cold, and the world is new and strange and not very welcoming.
This is my God. This is God the Son, eternal and wonderful and equal with the Father. This is the One Who created this world… for the world was made through Him.
‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.’ John 1:3
This is the One Who planned me out; Who designed me so intimately and lovingly in my mother’s womb… Only, now, He has been formed in a womb, too… And the plan for His life is full of tears and suffering… So that the plan for my life could end only in eternal good.
My God spoke the universe into being. He placed the stars in the sky. He sits enthroned above it all. He holds it all together. None of it could exist without Him. Yet, here He is… Asleep in the straw. Tiny hands. Tiny feet. Tiny lungs. Tiny frame.
He must learn like any of us did… How to speak… How to walk… How to work.
But He existed before any of it. He knew it all before it was ever around.
Yet here He lies, so small.
If I could go there, I would want to hold Him. I would ask His mother if I could cradle Him… If I could hold Him close… And, if I had been there, I could have done: hold in my arms the One Who made me; the One Who is holding me all together even now. And I’ve always loved holding babies but this One is different… This is my God… And I’d be terrified that I’d drop Him but hold can you drop the One Who is holding you all together? And yet He made Himself breakable… Hurtable… Crucifiable.
And I would want to cradle Him; to protect Him; to keep Him safe from all the suffering down here. But, if He does not suffer for us, our suffering will never end. That’s why He came.
It’s stunning and astounding and crazily, breathtakingly good.
I could walk outside with Him in my arms; gaze up at the stars He made; the stars He is holding together; the galaxies He formed… that ‘were made through Him’. (from John 1:3) I could breathe in the good, clean oxygen that He needs to breathe too. But, then, it would be cold outside… and He would be so very small… and the stable, however dirty, is shelter from the cruel world… The cruel world that He will live in for 33 years… The cruel world that He will die to save.
For it won’t end here, in the stable. He will grow. He will suffer. He will feel pain down here. He will cry. He will hurt. He will be betrayed. He will love and serve and counsel and help and heal. He will change so many lives for good.
His beautiful, wonderful, world-changing life will lead to the cross… To the agony for my sins… To the bursting forth from the tomb… To the eternal reign of glory and justice and joy. It will be so glorious… And so painful… And so good.
Maybe I’d be too overwhelmed with His presence to take it in. Maybe I could only feel awe… and faltering, trembling, tearful love. But maybe there are some things I could take away…
If God loves me so much, that He would give me His only Son, how will He not also give me everything else I need? If He cares this much… If He loves this much… why do I ever worry about the smaller things? He gave His own Son. He will freely, abundantly, give me His best… because I know He already has.
’32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ Romans 8:32
God is not distant. God is not far away. God came this close… into the very heart of the mess. I can let Him into my mess, too… let Him come close… and let Him work.
God has given Himself to me… to us… to all who will accept Him through Christ. He gave Himself at the manger, and He has given Himself to us for always. This Gift will never be taken away, if we only receive it. He is God with us… and He always will be. Through every need… every trial… every moment. He is mine… He is ours… for always…. forever.
 
And how can I keep this to myself? I cannot leave the manger unchanged… and I cannot leave it silent. Too many others need to know… need to encounter Him as I have done… need His love to change their lives forever.

It’s stunning and overwhelming and life-changing. I cannot take it in, but I cannot stay the same. And right now I just want to wait here: to gaze: to hold Him close in my arms and marvel that that’s what He is: close.

(If you don’t know Him yet as Saviour and Lord, come to the manger… come to the cross… turn from your sins, surrender your life and receive His full and free forgiveness. He loves you so much that He came so small… and so full of love. He longs to meet with you).
May you have a very blessed and happy Christmas. 🙂
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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What Do You Really Want for Christmas?

What do you really want for Christmas?

What do I really want for Christmas?

A present? Something you’ve wanted wrapped up with a ribbon?

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We may or may not get those things wrapped up in a box for us on Christmas Day.

But there’s one thing we can know for sure: God has given us a Gift already.

It’s a gift that will fill our deepest longings, whether we know it or not. It’s a Gift that satisfies the longing soul. It’s a Gift that deeply quenches the thirsty heart. It’s a Gift that meets our deepest need.

For all who will receive Him, God has given us Himself.

For the past few days, I’ve been camped out in Christmas verses- like these in Isaiah 9- a prophecy written hundreds of years before Jesus… about what God would do… about what happened in the manger and what will happen Forever afterwards.

‘For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.’ Isaiah 9:6-7

God has given us Himself.

When you start to think about what God is saying here, it’s incredible!

‘For unto us a Child is born’. Isaiah 9:6

God gives us a Child. Actually, God gives us Himself.

More than what we think we want, more than what we think we need, all we really, truly want is God Himself.

And God has given us Himself in Jesus.

Who is this Child?

He will rule… forever.

He will be King of a whole new order… a whole new way of doing things.

What is He like?

He is the Wonderful Counsellor.

He is wisdom for all of the things that trouble us. He is help for all the perplexities of life. He is the One Who always listens; always understands; is never too busy and always has the wisdom we need.

For many years, I lived with a lot of confusion that troubled me deeply. I sought Him for wisdom, sometimes desperately. I am still amazed at how much He has done in answer: at how He has brought peace and wisdom into questions I thought would always trouble me. There are more questions, of course, but there has been so much healing… and deep peace. No one can counsel like Him!

He does counsel! I’m amazed by the wisdom in His Word… the way He puts a perfectly timed book into my hands when I need it… the way He gives wisdom in a variety of ways.

Whatever is troubling you, ask Him about it! He is the best Counsellor you could ever have.

He is the Mighty God. He is the One Who rules; the One Who reigns; the One Who created it all. He is sovereign and powerful and oh-so-good. He is strong and faithful and powerful to save. He is Mighty God… with us.

Everlasting Father.

Deep down, all of us crave the love of a perfect Father. We long to hear the tender, powerful affirmation of a Father Who loves us just as we are, treasures us and longs to give us His best. We can find the Father we have always yearned for through Jesus Christ.

He is the Prince of Peace. The One Who brings peace; deep wholeness into our troubled hearts and minds. The One Who waits to impart to us deep, calming peace.

He gives peace with God and peace between people it seemed impossible to unite. He gives peace in incredible ways.

And He is bringing an eternal reign of peace, justice and joy to all who will surrender to Him as Lord and receive Him as Saviour.

We live in a crazy, unstable world. But there is a new order coming: an eternal reign of peace under King Jesus. Everyone who knows Jesus as Saviour and Lord in this life will be there in the next. To live in His Kingdom will be pure joy. There will be freedom. There will be harmony. There will be happiness forever. And it is all because King Jesus will be on the throne.

He was not just a baby in Bethlehem. He is the Answer to our deepest longings. He is God… God giving us Himself in His Son.

No matter what your circumstances, there are reasons to rejoice this Christmas. God Has given us a Child.

God has given us a King.

God has given us Himself.

In Him is hope beyond our wildest dreams… Forever and beyond. 🙂

And He is reaching out to you right now.. in love.

(if you don’t know Him for yourself yet, He waits for you with open arms. Come and tell Him you are sorry for choosing other things instead of Him. Come and ask His forgiveness for things that you have done. Come and surrender your life to Him as your Lord- and let Him change it in incredible ways. You be amazed by what He can do in response to a prayer like that).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When I feel Inadequate and Afraid…

I don’t know about you but I often seem to find myself going back to the same old familiar Bible passages in December.

And God speaks to me through them.

One of the things that has gone deep, again and again, is what the angel said to Mary.

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‘Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’ Luke 1:30 

Again and again, God has used those words to encourage me.

‘And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”Luke 1:28

And, yes, it’s a bit of context. My story is different to hers. Mary had a very particular blessing on her life. She was extraordinarily blessed. Mary got to bring the Messiah into the world! She was blessed among women in an incredible, astounding way.

But I am a child of God, because I belong to Jesus. And I, too, in Christ, am blessed. God’s favour is on my life, too.

And sometimes I think God wants to remind me of that.

I often let fear torment me, but it has no place. God is with me. His hand is on my life.

I am blessed.

I’ve been reading the book of Genesis recently. What did God say to Isaac?

‘And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”’  Genesis 26:24

It was as though God stopped me in the middle of that verse.

Don’t be afraid. I am with you. I will bless you.

So simple, yet so helpful.

No, I am not Isaac either. God had a very particular plan for Isaac’s life, and a very special blessing on his future. Isaac was Abraham’s child of promise.

But God is with me, too. I have been forgiven. I am in Christ. And, because I am, I too am blessed… and I don’t need to be afraid of what will happen to me… or what others will think.

God has a plan for my life, too. His hand is on me… in blessing.

I who live afraid of the future. I who live hesitant and held back, nervous about what could happen. I who often live anxious and afraid.

He says to me, Don’t be afraid. I am with you. You are blessed.

I remember when I was at a conference a few years ago. We were listening to a speaker. We were singing. We stopped to pray; to seek a touch from the Lord.

Suddenly, it was as though God was showing me something. Because I have been saved through Jesus, I am His child. Because I am His child, I am blessed. There is an open Heaven above me. God answers my prayers. All of Heaven is on my side. I am blessed.

A lady had asked me to pray for her. I didn’t feel qualified. I felt small and unsure. But He was showing me something: I am His child. Because I am His child, because He is my Father, He hears my prayers, no matter how small and halting I feel. Of course I can pray for others! I am His! So I prayed- and it really seemed that God was answering. And He encouraged my heart. I am His child. He hears me because I belong to Him.

Blessed. It doesn’t always guarantee an easy ride. It doesn’t mean no tears this side of Heaven. It doesn’t mean I will always get what I want… Yet. There are plenty of misunderstandings out there about what it means to be blessed in the here and now. It doesn’t mean every superficial material or physical blessing I could want. It’s also not an excuse to mess around with sin (though, in the light of that, why would I want to?).

It is far sweeter; far greater than that. It is ultimately eternal… and it is also eternity bursting into the now.

It means I am loved. I am protected. I am secure. Everything that happens to me will turn out for my good.

‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’ Romans 8:28

Tears will only multiply the blessings. Every trial will have a silver lining. He will be with me through it all.

Most of all, I have Him.

‘And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.’ John 17:3

I have no reason to live in fear… No reason to hold back.

What did God say to His people Israel?

’22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”’

27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”’

Numbers 6:22-27

He tells me:

Don’t be afraid. I am with you. You are blessed.

And that is a reason to rejoice! 🙂

(And that reality can be yours, too. It is, if you belong to Jesus, trusting not in your good works but in Him alone as your Saviour, following Him as your Lord. And, if  that’s not you yet, it’s not too late! Turn from your sin, surrender to Him as Lord of your life and receive His full and free forgiveness… and find love you’d never dreamed existed. And you, too, can live secure… and blessed).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.