It’s Christmas Eve morning. Our home is quiet so I’m able to wake slowly. As I gain consciousness, my mind starts to recall all that we’d like to do today. Thankfully, it’s a short list of wishes that we’ll get to if we can. Truly, nothing will make Christmas more meaningful than what it is. There is a short back-story before I begin–
Last week I got something I’ve been wishing for—a few days home alone to rest. Unfortunately, I came down with the flu and sleeping was all that I was able to do. A stack of books sat on my nightstand but I was too groggy to read. My husband and daughter were busy knocking down deadlines and staying away so they wouldn’t get sick. I should have been more specific with my prayer to have undisturbed [healthy] time at home.
I’ve often wondered what Buddy, our 15-year old pooch, does all day. I appreciated his willingness to stay by my side day and night. When someone came home, I was excited to hear the door open. I hoped they had brought me a treat or would just sit with me little while.
I dozed between TV shows and saw the same holiday ads over and over again. The time reiterated a burden that has been on my heart and mind– that Christmas has gotten so far off the mark. I have been wracking my brain to recall traditions that truly honor Jesus. I’m grateful to conclude that nothing will make His birth more meaningful than embracing the authentic gift of Christmas. It’s a marvelous revelation— like so many beloved Christmastime movies featuring Jimmy Stewart, the Grinch, or Scrooge. It is an awakening to comprehend a key element I’ve been wresting with throughout the year. Indescribable peace and joy comes when we base every action and, equally important, every reaction on love. However, the love has to be authentic—the pure, eternal love from our Creator. This is the gift of Emmanuel, God with us! Nothing our minds can concoct will ever replace the hope available through faith in Jesus.
As I gained consciousness this morning and a mental task list was attempting to load, I kept recalling an interaction I had a few years ago. This story kept coming on my mind like a flash ad or reboot message on your computer. I couldn’t ignore it so I got out of bed and asked Dave for some time to write before we head out this morning. Now that I’ve written a few paragraphs, the connection is evident and I hope to convey it clearly.
I was on the way home from a trip to South Asia. There is no way to measure the success of a trip on tangible data. If I tried to validate the investment of time by worldly standards, I would have put my luggage in the attic and never left home again. Everyone else on the team had meaningful interactions with positive results but I had simply sown seeds. It could have been discouraging but I knew I couldn’t let statistics rationalize God’s plan or purpose. He never wastes our time.
The woman sitting next to me on the first leg of the trip home started a conversation. She had been on a spiritual retreat and soon revealed the tumultuous life circumstances that inspired her journey. She had a successful medical career but a failing marriage. We shared our hearts with one another and talked about our faith. The Spirit led the conversation. Recollections of truth came from my heart and mind without effort and certainly not by my own ability. The interaction of our hearts was poignant because I came to understand why so many believe there are several ways to God. A replica of an expensive watch may keep time and impress people who are impressed by that sort of thing. But if you try to sell a knock-off watch, you’ll learn its value. It may appear remarkable and may have served its purpose of keeping time, but it doesn’t hold an eternal value.
The woman from Istanbul and I shared our hearts for a couple hours. In the end, she sobbed uncontrollably in my arms and gave me the pair of earrings she was wearing. I don’t know if she found what she was looking for on that journey. Occasionally, I put the earrings on and pray she has come to know the peace that surpasses all human understanding. It’s true many have kind hearts and feel joy, peace, and love. But for many, as time passes, they may come to realize the authenticity of their emotions. As humankind longs for peace on earth, I pray they can unlock the mystery of faith to reveal the difference between knock-off contentment and rock-solid faith that can weather any storm.
The one and only gift of Christmas has already been given. How can we top that?
“The payoff for a life of sin is death, but God is offering us a free gift—eternal life through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King.” Romans 6:23
“You see, Moses gave us rules to live by, but Jesus the Anointed offered us gifts of grace and truth.” John 1:17
“because You have given Me total authority over humanity. I have come bearing the plentiful gifts of God; and all who receive Me will experience everlasting life, a new intimate relationship with You (the one True God) and Jesus the Anointed (the One You have sent).” John 17:2-3
“But the free gift of grace bears no resemblance to Adam’s crime that brings a death sentence to all of humanity; in fact, it is quite the opposite. For if the one man’s sin brings death to so many, how much more does the gift of God’s radical grace extend to humanity since Jesus the Anointed offered His generous gift.” Romans 5:15
“Each believer has received a gift that manifests the Spirit’s power and presence. That gift is given for the good of the whole community.” 1 Corinthians 12:7
“For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.” John 3:16