"Love Reigns!" (But does it reign in your heart?)
Here it is!! Christmas week! Are you counting the days? Or are your kids counting the days? Maybe you are frantically checking off your list, running to the store for last minute things, wrapping feverishly, baking and cooking with fervor, calling your husband and asking him to pick up things you forgot.... Whew. What a busy time for all of us. And, the whole world tastes of the excitement, the Christmas "fever", the busyness, the glitter, the glitz, the lights, the gifts, the music, the movies,... everything about this time of year is fraught with anticipation. And, these last few days of preparation culminate in the single "best day of the year".
But, what if it's not that? What if Christmas this year is a grave disappointment? What if you don't get that gift? Or someone else's gift looks better? Or that person didn't come? Or so-and-so never calls you? Or you weren't able to get the kids what they really wanted? Or maybe someone dear passed away and there's a person-sized hole in your Christmas celebrations? The fuzzy Hallmark feelings of Christmas don't always measure up to the reality.
And, reality often results in many people feeling, at the very least, disappointed. The joy and peace and hope circling around the platitudes of Christmas are at best, left feeling superficial.
But, what if, this year, you realize the culminating anticipation of Christmas could be felt all year around? What if the joy and peace and hope you desire could be yours every single day of the year? For the rest of your life?
Because, the truth is- Christmas is about God coming to dwell with us. First, he came as a baby, but that is just the beginning of the story. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). That sweet baby Mary held in her arms would change the world. How?
By living a life radically different from political, societal, and religious norms. And, in his life and teachings, he portrayed to the world what living for the glory of God looks like. He was perfection. Perfection in infant form. Perfection- not in physical form: "He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and had no beauty that we should desire him"(Isaiah 53:2)- but he was perfection in action, thought, word, and deed. He was God- in the flesh- come to dwell with us. I can't emphasize enough how amazing, astonishing, and awe-filling that statement is.
And, yet, the celebration at Christmas of his birth is just the beginning of the power behind that statement. For, in coming to dwell with us as a man, Jesus took on us. He took on our hurts, our pains, our sorrows, our temptations, our guilt, our shame, our fears... everything. Yet, in all this, he never once sinned or buckled to the pressures of this tortured world. Instead, he shattered every wretched, sinful, devastating, disgusting thing about this world and reigns triumphant over all of it.
How? By dying. And, then, by crushing death and living again.
And, this has monumental ramifications for us. How?
Because in Jesus experiencing humanity he understands every single thing you are going through right now. He understands every hurt. He feels every pain and sorrow. He sympathizes with you in your weakest moments. He knows each fear you hold locked in the corners of your heart. He understands each temptation which threatens your relationships. And, he is the answer for the way out.
Instead of looking to the here and now and the glitter of this temporary present moment, Jesus is asking you to look to him. Look to him, not as the baby, but as the King. The King who reigns over every hurt. The King who delivers from every fear. The King who came to dwell with us in our disgusting world and came out of this sin and death cursed world victorious. He is the light and the life you need. He is the glory of the invisible God. He is full of grace and truth.
Religion offers nothing but rigorous rules and regulations. Jesus offers peace. He offers grace. He offers hope. He offers joy. He gives light. He is LOVE. And these truths don't just come once a year. They are yours all year through- if you will only but set down the fears, the anger, the judgement, the pain, the devastation, and let him take it from you. He already bore it all on the cross for you- why do you feel the need to keep grasping at what is only keeping you from experiencing freedom?
For those of us who have tasted of the grace of God, in the person and work of Jesus, Christmas is a blessed celebration. But, it is not the end-all-celebration. Rather, Christmas is a reminder of the hope we experience all year long. Christmas is a reminder of the glory that is ours. The angels announced, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace". Yet, it was not just at that moment. What the angels proclaimed was that the glory of God had come to dwell here on earth. And, that glory was wrapped up in Christ. And, it never left him.
In glory he lived. In glory he died. And, in glory he rose again.
In glory he reigns. And, in glory he fills the hearts of all who come to him for life and light.
In glory we wait. In glory he will ultimately reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
This is our anticipation. This is our hope. Our peace. Our joy.
Not in the once-a-year fuzzy feeling at Christmas of a sweet baby, but the all-year-long settled hope that Jesus reigns. He was the promised baby who came- the Messiah who defeated all sin and death and hell. And, he has promised to come again- as KING.
"And, I [John] heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'. And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new. ...Write this down for these words are faithful and true. ...It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God, and he will be my son'." (Revelation 21: 3-7).
Whatever dreadful, devastating, detestable things you are experiencing or have experienced here on earth, Jesus has borne their pain. And, he is asking you to trust him with them. Give your heart to him- every single piece, and let him fill it with himself. He is the answer. He is the life. He is the love for which you are searching. He is the peace, the joy, the hope. He reigns now- at Christmas-and forever! Let him reign in your heart.
Make this Christmas the one where your heart is not dependent on fading anticipations, but on the future of the hope of Christ. He reigns. He is King. Let him reign in your heart today and every day, "that your faith [hope, peace, joy, and whatever else your heart needs!] may not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Corinthians 2:5).
He says, "Come!"
"Lift your hand for love has come to find you
Somewhere in your silent night.
When your pain runs deep,
His love runs deeper still."
Songs for Meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT-5cP4BeoI