YEAR END REFLECTIONS
In the Valley of the Shadow of Darkness I'm Coming to You
I look forward to a better year in 2012. The end of summer brought a life-changing event to my life. I was diagnosed with a rare Stage 4 cancer in September. The news was and is a shock. The Oncologist was straightforward in his communications with me... "This is a fast growing cancer with very low survival rates".
Wow. A circumstance that I never dreamed of. I had hoped to spend the coming years enjoying time with my wife and sons, watching my grandkids grow into amazing adults, and working with REACH kids and their families. Would God be with me? If I cried out would He hear?
Many of you are facing catastrophic changes. For some, this is the first Christmas since your beloved died. For others, this is another holiday without work, and the goal is food and shelter...forget gifts. We hoped for...
"Better news from the doctor."
"Life to be spared."
"The call back from the only interview in the past year with news of a job."
Words painted gray with disappointment. What we wanted didn't come. What came, we didn't want. The result? Shattered hope. The foundation of our world trembles. "What kind of God would let me down like this?" "Why is He silent?"
I am writing this letter to you on December 18, and in the spirit of the time of the year, have been studying the Christmas story for answers to these questions. Part of the answer is found in the time between the Old and New Testament...between Malachi and Matthew. Four hundred years. A long time for God to be silent.
Imagine that you lived during this period. You ask your father if he has ever heard from God. "No, I have not." You ask if his father heard from God. He answers: "No, he did not hear either. And not his father, nor his father before him." Where did God go? Did he turn his back on His chosen people?
And then the answer. The Creator of the universe broke his silence. And He changed everything. John writes in his gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."..."The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us."
The Christmas Story (Luke: 2)
The Birth of Jesus
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his (her) own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (What a start in life...the Son of God born under a cloud of scandal to a poor family.) While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you the good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
You are my sunshine and my delight". "You are my favorite"! "You are my first choice"! " I love you beyond measure"! "You are my work of art"! "You are a miracle ...and all the angels marvel at you"!
Go tell it on a mountain.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men
on whom His favor rests."
When the angels has left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.
(Can you imagine seeing an angel appearing and speaking to you? You are sitting in your living room and BAM, this 6'2" or 62' creature with wings shows up and starts talking to you. Terrified is a mild descriptive for what I would feel.)
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for the all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Four hundred years of silence and then everything changed. God had spoken.
The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became flesh. The Star Breather became an embryo. And He who sustains the world chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
Max Lucado writes: "God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The Creator of life being created."
"God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys and a spleen."
God Came Near
He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused and dirty. No silk. No ivory. No hype. No party. No hoopla.
Were it not for the shepherds, there would have been no reception. And were it not for a group of stargazers, there would have been no gifts.
Angels watched as Mary changed God's diaper. The universe watched with wonder as The Almighty learned to walk.
The Twelve Words of Christmas
No, that's not a typo. I don't mean the Twelve Days of Christmas. The twelve words of Christmas changed everything. "A savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord."
A Savior for us... Amazing.
It doesn't say "Get it together and then we'll talk salvation." It doesn't say "Try harder." It says "a savior for you", no exceptions, and calls for all of us to believe.
Yonder Breaks A New and Glorious Morn
This holiday season brings us not silence but hope. For all our kids at REACH who were born with a disease that isolates, for all those who are suffering from the loss of the loved one, for all those who are suffering the loss of a job and the crush of financial pressure, or those who are suffering the loss of our health...circumstances we never dreamed of, a savior has been born to you. It's the knowledge that He will bring you through...even in the valley of darkness He's coming to you.
Hope is not what you would expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a wild improbable tale with a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming ending. That's the story of Christmas.
I have been thankful and joyful and peaceful in the good times. And I will be thankful and joyful and peaceful in the bad times. My health may be uncertain, but God's love for me is unending. By the way, He is shrinking the tumors. Simply amazing!
Read the following in the first person. They are written just for you. "I am prized by Majesty." "I matter to God." "He will never leave me or forsake me." Remember these when you sing "Yonder breaks a new and glorious morn." He came for us. He is Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas from all of us at REACH Ministries. We are so grateful for your support throughout the year. We could not do it without you.