Mere Kirimete & happy holiday season! What’s your favourite part of the Christmas story? I’m a “shepherd” girl myself, but I’ve been thinking a little more about the wise men this year.
For one thing, it’s super cool that they came soooo far just because they saw a star. I love the active faith that they had to travel long and hard. They believed a prophecy, and sought long and hard after Jesus… just to spend a little while worshipping him and laying what they had at his manger.
Matthew 2:2 – “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
That kind of faith is admirable, and I believe, worth my attention this Christmas. As is the action they combined with their faith. They sought Jesus. They had such an active faith.
Mark and I were given a lot of gifts this Christmas – gifts we tore through lovely wrapping paper to find, gifts of being “present” with friends and family, and just being reminded of all the gifts that God has lavished on us this year. He has given me health, given Mark a job, put us in a house with cheap rent and good flatmates, provided for us over and over again. We were able to go back to America for a month. I travelled to Malaysia and to Fiji. We have been overwhelmed with God’s goodness toward us this past year.
But, this week, we were given an enormous gift for Christmas that we weren’t expecting (a car) and have been in awe ever since. There’s a reason there is a phrase called “shock and awe”. We’ve been shocked by generosity, and in awe of God’s grace and goodness toward us through other people. Part of the enormity of this gift is the effect it has had on our faith.
We went home on Christmas Eve with this gift, and God took me to Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened… If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
I love the reminders God gives us (big and small) that when we actively seek after him, we find him and we find his blessings. And I don’t mean that that we are meant to be materialistic about it. But, I know through experience that God loves to provide for his children.
I just mean that when we seek after Jesus – and after his heart – then we find him. Finding him is the beautiful part. It is beautiful to seek and find him while reading his Word. It is beautiful to seek and find him while being in his presence, worshipping him and standing in awe of who he is. It is beautiful to ask and receive his “good things” – his love, his grace, his gifts.
And, it is beautiful to seek him… and to lay what we have at his feet.
So this Christmas season, I want to remind and encourage myself (as well as you, wonderful readers) that God calls us to 1) Seek him and find him – as a baby in a manger, a man who died for us, and as the One True King, and 2) Ask and receive – by spending time worshipping him – in prayer, adoration, and gratitude – by laying what we have at his manger, his feet, and his cross. Receive the love that he has for you, and the mercy that he wants to lavish on you.
Here’s to seeking the king.
If you live in the northern hemisphere, you will probably have a very different picture of Christmas than people here in New Zealand. We have summer Christmas.
When I am in New Zealand, my Christmas holidays would be amiss if I did not go to the beach… a lot. When I’m dreaming of a “White Christmas”, the closest I get are the white sand beaches of east Auckland. Instead of pine trees, our pohutukawa trees blossom red flowers against their green leaves.
I love this beach life. I love living near the ocean.
Once you have been to the ocean, you will understand this statement: There are just some days when you just feel the need to drive a bit and sit next to the sea.
Today is such a day.
We can learn so much from the ocean. That’s probably why there are so many songs that use it as a metaphor. Here are some lines you may recognize:
“In oceans deep, my faith will stand.”
“When sorrows like sea billows roll…”
“Oceans will part, nations will come, at the whisper of your name.”
“Set my feet upon the sea ‘til I’m dancing in the deep.”
I think of these songs and then I think of Christmas. There’s a question that I ask myself as I sit here at the beginning of December: Is there anything about Christmas that is like this ocean?
At first, I’m thinking no. That’s a ridiculous question. Then, different themes started popping into my mind.
I’m sure we can all come up with some great answers. You can probably come with more than me. Right now, God is using the sea to refresh, restore, heal, and satisfy me. But, when I think of the sea as it relates to Christmas, this is what I’ve come up with: POWER.
Yes, the original Christmas story is about peace. A silent night. Wise men quietly following a star. Silent shepherds watching their sheep at night. A sweet baby asleep in a manger. It has all of these things.
But we must never forget the POWER of God when he comes down to man.
The sea sounds so peaceful to me right now. The waves are so small that little kids are going a few meters in. There are people parasailing. But there are no surfers because the waves are just not big enough. The ocean is calm and quiet.
But have you seen the ocean roar as a storm comes in? Have you seen crashing waves leap over boulders and into cliffs? Have you heard those horrible stories of people getting caught in the wild current, being swept out to sea?
God. The Great-I-Am. He came to Earth. The One who is so great and holy that even prophets could not look upon Him and live. To even hear the name of Yahweh garnered fear and trembling. The LORD, mighty in battle, came.
But in a tiny baby.
Power that made blind men see, deaf men hear, and dead men walk.
Power that rose himself from the grave.
Power that takes away the sins of the world.
I’m glad the ocean reminded me of God’s peace. And I’m glad it reminds me of God’s power. I never want to forget this part of Christmas.
Want more Christmas??? Here’s more posts:
…And Joy http://alittlesanctuary.org/and-joy/
Summer Christmas http://alittlesanctuary.org/summer-christmas/
God with us: Part I http://alittlesanctuary.org/god-us-part/
God with us: Part II http://alittlesanctuary.org/god-us-part-ii/
God with us: Part III http://alittlesanctuary.org/god-us-part-iii/
Storying Christmas: Waiting http://alittlesanctuary.org/storying-christmas-waiting/
Christmas Eve & The Miracle Fern http://alittlesanctuary.org/christmas-eve-miracle-fern/
We’re at the end of our “The Power of Pause” series. I hope that you, like me, have learned a lot by stopping in the middle of chaos. Let’s end by realizing something very important: Much of what happens in life is actually out of our control. It’s out of our hands.
There’s a song that I used to listen to over and over by Shaun Groves, back in the day where contemporary Christian music was all we had. It’s called “Out of my Hands” and the chorus goes like this:
“Out of My Hands” by Shaun Groves
It’s out of my hands
It’s out of my reach
It’s over my head
And it’s out of my league
There’s too many things
that I don’t understand
So it’s into your will
And it’s out of my hands
I know that I am not the only one in the universe who feels like there is no controlling my own life. Sometimes the things we should be able to tweak, improve, or even change completely just seem “out of my reach”. I lay in bed sometimes and I reason and I make plans. And then I remember that one thing that prevents me from going after even the mildest of my wildest dreams. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Even if your “preventer” isn’t chronic illness, there’s normally something that stops you.
Right now, I’m relating to Job a lot (I mean, we all relate to Job at some time in our lives. Am I right or am I right?). Not the part where he loses everything he loves. The part where after a certain amount of time and a certain amount of friends judge him, he begins to question God’s goodness.
Optimism is a beautiful thing, and it’s one thing that I am just really good at most of the time. I can turn any bad situation around. I know all the tricks – like by telling myself that everything happens for a reason, or that I can use this situation to help someone else out later, or that this time of suffering will bring me nearer to God or to the people around me.
Job must have thought all of these. He must have known all the tricks. I mean, his friends were really quick to point them out to him. And I understand his friends because they say all of the negative things that I say to myself when optimism fails and my serotonin levels dip – that I deserve what I’m getting, that God is punishing me, that I must have done something really wrong.
But Job got tired of it all, like we all do when people give us advice without really knowing what’s going on inside of us. He’d been good through all his friends’ tirades, but he just melts down. And then Elihu pipes up against Job and the others. Then God speaks.
Job thought that he had rights. That what he wanted was somehow greater than what God had in mind for him.
Of course he does this! He is human. As a fellow human, I completely understand.
Questioning God is something that I’m sure every human has done at some point in their lives – though they may call God the universe, or chance, or Mother Nature. If there is something higher up there, then we feel the need to blame it.
But questioning God has always been foreign to me.
Now that I’m on the brink of my 30th birthday and I have been sick for the larger part of seven years now, I’m starting to get it. I’m run down. I LOVED that verse that said that God knew the plans he had for me – plans to give me a hope and a future. All I ever wanted to do was serve God and help people. I have insane amounts of ideas and dreams and visions in my head that don’t stop even with chronic fatigue. I have ideas that I truly believe come from God. And I run with them. I run with them until I remember that I can’t do any of it. Not on my own. Not with chronic illness.
I’m in bed every single day. I wrote a book where I proclaimed that I would not waste my life. What am I doing? Well, I feel like I am wasting my life.
So I cry out to God. I yell at him and tell him that this is not what I wanted for my life. I tell him that I don’t want to be sick anymore. I tell him that I want to build that orphanage in Romania. I want to open up a place where women can come and be together and help each other. I want to help stop human trafficking in Cambodia.
Thus, I ask the age-old question: Why do good things happen to people who want to do good?
For what have you been angry at God? How have you questioned his goodness?
“But the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding…. Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” (Job 38:1-4; 40:1)
Does God’s response to Job answer my questions? Not really.
But it does remind me who holds the world in his hands. It reminds me who is in control and that it is not me. God reminds me that he created me and everything beautiful and grandiose around me. He shows me that I actually know nothing. He reminds me that the birds in the air and the fish in the sea praise him. They don’t blame him for anything.
So if all that He wants me to do with my life is praise him from my bed, then that’s what I need to do.
At the end of our series on pausing, let’s stop and remember this: It’s all out of our hands. And that, my friend, is okay. We don’t need answers all the time. We just need to remember who does. The one who holds the whole world in his hands.
I’ve been sitting with my notebook and my Bible open at a café in the Coromandel Peninsula. Getting here to this place involved a series of closed roads and closed restaurants. Sometimes, it takes a bunch of closed roads to get to the right road. I followed nature beside the seaside, around the harbor, and through the bush. And my car landed in the middle of an orchard, miles away from any town.
I needed to get away – to retreat from all the distractions of a messy house, of needing to go to the supermarket, and especially from being sick. I needed an adventure, so I drove through the sunrise into paradise..
I notice the yellow leaves of a tall tree to my right – and those leaves are clapping, dancing, and praising the name of Jehovah. The sparrows are singing their pure and innocent songs from the mandarin orchard to my left – the God of the universe provides their food and drink. Every living thing around me is having fun and I am enjoying each moment of God’s presence. This beats Netflix any day.
Written down above what my pen is inking now is a portion of what I’ve just read in my green and purple TNIV Bible: “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” (II Samuel 6:20-23)
Sitting down by a packed out New Zealand café with a Bible open is not normal here. I struggled to even bring it out. Now that the birds around me are seeing and the children on both sides are playing and everything around me is happy and content, I don’t feel embarrassed. But I did at first. And I am ashamed because David took off his clothes and danced before the Lord. He didn’t care. The sparrows never care what we think of their songs. The trees don’t care if we think their dancing leaves are out of rhythm.
Nature reminds me, causing me to pause, that there is a good God. It helps to refocus my life.
Does being in nature help you? Is there something else that helps you pause?
I once decided to make a list of animals and plants – anything in nature, really – and then think about what and how they reflected glory on God.
The majesty of lions, the tremendous strength of elephants, the delight of a father or mother over their child. These remind us of who God is.
The herd of sheep that depend on the shepherd or the sheepdog to keep them safe. The autumn leaves dancing and glowing as they fall in the midday sun. The way that child looks up at his father and mother in adoration. These remind me of our dependence on God.
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)
All of creation reflects the nature and the beauty of God and his goodness.
Pausing in creation, finding yourself stopped to smell the roses, is one of the greatest gifts we have. Nature allows us to rest and find peace.
Nature allows us to refocus so that we can live our lives more fully, away from the chaos, back to Eden where we can dance like David and praise like the sparrows and the trees all around us.