It's December 24.
At this time last year I was logging my 24th musing on the Season of Incarnation, which I'd dubbed From Thanks 2 Giving. God was filling my heart and my head with Christmas-themed devotions, studies, and reflections so much that of all the barriers that usually stand against writers who attempt to pen words every single day, the only one that seemed to slow me down was the time it took to get online and format a post at least once every 24 hours.
From character studies of the players who appeared around the time of the birth of Christ to lessons the Lord has taught me through the years, the process gave my soul the opportunity to return to the majesty of Emmanuel, God with us, many times over. For me, the best gift of the season came over and over again in those days preceding Christmas.
A hashtag summary of the season could have been
Not this Christmas. This Christmas, it's been more like all the feels, all the things, all the thoughts have gone AWOL. I couldn't write more than a single post intended for the 2016 edition of Thanks 2 Giving. Hello, failure, my old friend.
I'm even struggling with writing this post. And I'm struggling with the fact that I'm struggling. I should be able to string words into sentences and paragraphs that articulate the glory and wonder of the Incarnation, the amazing mercy of God, the love of the Messiah. I did it for 24 days in a row last year, for heaven's sake!
I could hack through the paragraphs, slap a Christmasy sticker on it, and say I did it, but that would look as drossy as ornaments in a Dollar Store display.
And it would be masking the emptiness, which I suspect is really what this lesson is about. I need a reminder of redemption.
The Lord said in his first major recorded sermon, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Unlike our inclination to regard poverty as having something less than another, true poverty is to be impoverished, to have nothing, to be barren, empty. Our spirits are poor and barren. It's our condition when we come into this world. We don't make ourselves that way in order to get better -- we are not to empty ourselves in order to be filled by Christ.
That's the point of the lesson. Repentence is not saying, "Oh, that's bad so I have to put it away, and that's bad so I have to get rid of it." Repentence is saying, "I have been bad from the beginning, and I can't empty myself of that."
Those who know they have nothing, who know they are impoverished, they know that because God in His mercy has revealed it to them. Instead of functioning in a haze of self-delusion and pretense, they have received this great gift of discovery about themselves: They are destitute and have always been that way. Divine light has pierced the darkness of our imprisoned souls. As Charles Wesley wrote in that much beloved hymn, "And Can It Be":
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
But this is only the beginning of the sermon -- and the beginning of our Savior's first sentence of the sermon! ". . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," he goes on to say.
The kingdom of heaven! Where perfect love has triumphed over sin and death. Where the Father's chosen king is revealed -- Jesus, the Incarnate One!
Last season, I wrote like a whirlwind, I felt all the feels and did all the things.
Having once been saved out of all my barren, blemished, unclean emptiness, I come to the cradle. This season, I needed to be reminded that even during a season full of Jesus, HE fills me with the blessings of Christmas, HE causes me to experience gratitude for the Father's love, by HIM I am awed by the mystery of Incarnation, because of HIM I join the chorus of the heavenly hosts in praise and worship, through HIM can genuinely point others to know the true Gift of the season.
Elisabeth Elliot said, “Sometimes life is so hard you can only do the next thing." Her words have served as great inspiration for many young mothers out there, exhausted and frazzled with the difficulties of the tasks they face each day. But it's counsel that extends to all of this life, because in truth, exhausting and frazzled life can happen anytime along this journey.
It's true for me this year, and it's my guess, it's true for a lot of people. The upheaval in a home, the angry words or cold, silent rooms, the ache of loss and memories that won't give a moment's peace, the urgency of dangerous world events that have driven many to lands far from their homes, damaged or failing bodies or minds, the insecurity and unease of a ravished world economy, the deep wounds of injustice and prejudice countless souls suffer for any number of wicked reasons. This is a world devoid of Spirit.
The next thing might be forgiving someone who has hurt you. The next thing might be trusting God in the midst of the horrors of war. The next thing might be contentment about dreams lost. The next thing might be expressing peace instead of words of anger in retaliation.
But she didn't just say, do the next thing. Here is the rest of the quote: ". . . only do the next thing. Whatever that is just do the next thing. God will meet you there."
EE's words were not simply a feel-good exhortation. That would be moralism, and moralism impresses with flourishes and frills, desperate to give the appearance of fullness, of completeness. But moralism is a masquerade, a deception. No one is empowered to do any of the next things without the Spirit of God. She says in a modeling prayer: "Lead me, Lord, to the Rock that is higher than I. Let me hear your word, give me grace to obey, to build steadily, stone upon stone, day by day, to do what You say. Establish my heart where floods have no power to overwhelm, for Christ’s sake. Amen.”
Simply to the Cross I cling, nothing in my hands I bring.
Today for me, the next thing is clinging to Christ. No hashtags here. That empty blog page over there? It's NOT the next thing this year. I could be frustrated or resentful, but its emptiness actually stirs up Joy and gratitude, because I know that for me, it's better this year for there to be less writing than more. There are other places for me to be this Christmas.
This Christmas, while all the world looks to a manger, God has rendezvoused with me at Calvary.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14 ESV)
For the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)
Laura Miller aka mrsdkmiller
Looking for a list of articles published around the web?
Looking for posts written in response to 5-Minute Friday prompts? Click here:
Her March Isn't Over
Across the River
When God Pries My Fingers Off My Children
Life's Defining Moments
To the Christian Wife Who Berated Her Husband in Front of My Daughter
Zeal and Grace in France
An Unconventional Love Story
Seeing What's in Front of Our Eyes
Remembering Why I Called You Hannah
Love Your Sister.
Because He Came Home
Go Valiantly! A Prayer for New Homeschooling Moms
© lauraenglandmiller, #thereyougothinkingagain, Laura E Miller
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