Tonight

It’ s Christmas Eve.  And I’ve been thinking. Why this night?

Out of all the nights since time began, why was this the night that changed everything?   We sometimes ask, why a virgin?  Why Mary?  Why a stable?  Why shepherds?  But today I got wondering, why this night?

We’ll never know for sure. “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7).  But that doesn’t stop me from wondering about it.

It had been prophesied.  It had been promised.  There were a lot of people waiting for it.  And probably a lot of people who wondered what was taking God so long.  Wouldn’t sooner have been better rather than later? 

Sometimes I wonder if God just has to smile at our ignorance and our questions.  I can hear Him say, “Oh My little child, you have no idea how to comprehend My thoughts and My plans and My calendar.  When are you going to learn to trust Me?  When are you going to learn to rest in My timing?”

I’m glad that it was this night.  I’m glad that the Christmas story has a whole lot to teach me about patience and waiting and trust and God’s perfect timing.  One day earlier would have been too soon.  One day later would have been too late.  This night was right on time.

God’s time.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…  Galatians 4:4

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise… 2 Peter 3:9

Lists

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Time for “The Christmas Lists”.

The Virkler family has a time-honored tradition of asking all of us, regardless of age, to make up Christmas lists.  Some are written on scraps of paper and some are printed out with fancy computer graphics.  Some are long and some are short. Some are logical and some are totally and hilariously impractical.  The completed lists are hung (with variety of kitchen magnets, of course) on the refrigerator at my parent’s house.

I’ll write down the things that I want the most or things that I really believe I need.  But as much as I might really, really want some of those gifts on my list, I know that whatever they choose for me, whether on my list or not, I’ll be happy.

It’s not the gift that’s important, it’s the giver.

I trust my family to be good to me.  Why is it that  sometimes I’m afraid to trust God to give me the best gifts He can?  Why am I so hesitant to say, “Here’s what I want/think I need, but I’m leaving the choice up to You”?

In his book, “When God Says No”, author Leith Anderson wrote, “The ultimate issue of faith isn’t whether we get the gift we seek, but whether we trust the Giver to be good.  Faith isn’t about answers.  Faith is about God”.

I’ve given God a Christmas list this year, too.  (Is it irreverant to picture this huge refrigerator door in heaven that He hangs it on?).  The things on that list aren’t necessarily the things on my “family” list. I believe God wants to see my list.  I believe He really cares about my list.  But if He chooses to give me something else, that’s OK.

I still trust the Giver to be good.

If you then, being 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!  Matthew 7:11

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11

Pageant

I went to a Christmas Pageant on Sunday night.   A real-life children’s Christmas Pageant, complete with little angels, three foot tall shepherds, various costumed pre-schoolers disguised as stable animals, and a live Baby Jesus.

The manger looked suspiciously like an infant car seat with a towel over it, but somehow it worked.  And Baby Jesus behaved, unlike one of the stable cows who wandered all over the platform patting everyone on the tops of their heads throughout much of the performance.

It wasn’t perfect, but it made me smile.

The night Christ was born wasn’t “perfect” either.  I’m sure the manger wasn’t near as comfortable as an infant car seat.  And while we like to think of the stable animals as being quiet and adoring, they might not have been all that well-behaved.  After all, they weren’t used to sharing their space with a newborn, his parents and visiting shepherds.

All in all, this baby Jesus came into a pretty imperfect world.  But that’s exactly why He came.

And that makes me smile.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  Titus 2:11

Derailed

“Dealing with Disappointment”.  That was the title to a Christmas sermon I heard many years ago.  Weird, I know.  Aren’t Christmas sermons supposed to focus on joy and hope and expectation and promises fulfilled?

I have to admit I love hearing twists to the Christmas story.  I love hearing things that make me look at it from a completely new and different angle.  And this was definitely one of those angles.

It was about Joseph – the other character in the story.  He sometimes takes a back seat in the drama.  But what he was asked to do is so much like what we’re all asked to do at times in our lives – deal with disappointment.  Joseph had plans.  He had found the woman he wanted to marry.  He probably had their whole life laid out in his mind – where they would live, what their kids would look like, how they would grow old together.  And then – wham – he was knocked off his feet by the news that his fiancée was not only pregnant, but um, pregnant with a child of the Holy Spirit.  This was so not Joseph’s plan.

Disappointment is probably an understatement.  Disappointed?  Probably completely freaked out.  Probably in a panic.  Probably questioning God’s plans and God’s timing and God’s seemingly overwhelming and impossible request to be a part of this weird drama.  We aren’t told a whole lot about Joseph’s struggle, but I think we can all imagine it. 

And relate, in an odd way.

God sometimes does derail our plans and our dreams.  He sometimes does ask us to be a part of seemingly overwhelming and impossible scenarios.  We are left questioning His wisdom and His timing and His purposes when we don’t know the rest of the story.  Joseph had no idea that he was going to be part of something that would change the world.  And if he hadn’t obeyed, he wouldn’t have been.

“Then Joseph…did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…” Matthew 1:24

May the same thing be said of me the next time my plans are derailed by a loving God who knows that the story I thought I wanted to be a part of is nothing compared to the one He has in store for me.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
 
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8
 
But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.  Job 23:10

Stars

“The stars are brightly shining”.  

That line from the well known Christmas song  took on a fresh new meaning this past week.  A recently released study suggests that instead of the universe having billions and billions of stars as previously thought, there are actually 300 sextillion of them.  I’ve never heard the term sextillion before. That’s a 3 followed by 23 zeros.  That’s a lot of stars.

He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Psalm 147:4

So God didn’t need a new scientific study.  He had already counted the stars…and named them, too.  He already knew each one individually.   Why the personal attention?  He created them to praise Him.

Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Psalm 148:3

There’s something about December stars that seem brighter.  Maybe that’s why God chose one to be a part of the Christmas story.  Makes me wonder what its name was.  The next time you step out into a winter night – especially a Christmas season winter night, look up and  really see the stars.  And imagine that every single one of them has a name and every single one of them is praising God. 

300 sextillion.  That’s a lot of stars.  That’s a lot of praise.

The stars are brightly shining.

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; Not one is missing. Isaiah 40:26

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:3-5

Unplugged

So, I thought my cute little sweet potato slices were taking an inordinately long time to bake in the toaster oven.  I was trying to do too many things at once, talking on the phone and making dinner at the same time.  Part way through my phone conversation, the 20 minute timer went off, signaling the need to turn the slices over.  “Curious”, I thought to myself as I kept talking.  The slices still seemed really firm.  Ten minutes later, I figured out why.

The toaster oven was unplugged.  The funny part was that I even used oven mitts to pull the cold tray out.

Silly me.  You need power to make things happen.  Things like a hot dinner.

This morning in my quiet time, by coincidence (although I think I hear God telling me otherwise) I was reading a verse about power.  “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1: 18-19)

There are times in my life when I don’t sense God’s power, never mind the exceeding greatness of it. And I know that’s not God’s fault. Of course the power is there for me, but I think I’ve been unplugged. I let things distract me from spending time with God and His Word.  I think everything is going fine, and then I realize I’m cold.  I wasn’t connected to the source of the power.  And my attempt to manage my own life is pretty useless without it. 

I’ll probably think about that the next time I put something in that old toaster oven.  I’ll check the plug.  And I’ll be reminded that I need to check my own connection, too. 

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…”  Ephesians 3:20

 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

“That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”        1 Corinthians 2:5

“…that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”  2 Corinthians 4:7

“Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power..” Colossians 1:11