Between

We’re in that strange time between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The big gift-giving, feasting and family gathering day is over.  The radio stations have stopped playing holiday music and the after-Christmas sales are already in full swing.  New Year’s Eve plans are being made.  New calendars are being bought. 2016 is right around the corner.

 

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But we’re in between.

I started to think of this in-between time differently this year.  What if we prepared better for the new year by recognizing that Christmas  has made all the difference?  Because a Child was born, because a Son was given, because we have a Wonderful Counselor and a Prince of Peace, we can face the New Year  with comfort and joy.

The in-between week gives us the time to let that sink in.  Instead of feeling sad that Christmas is over and the routines of our lives will soon start in again, we should keep celebrating.  We should keep thinking about the One born to reign in us forever, the One born to set the captives free.

Wrap yourself in the wonder that is the in-between.  Christmas promises that 2016 will be all in God’s hand.

My times are in Your hand.  Psalm 31:15

…the eyes of the Lord are ever on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.  Deuteronomy 11:12

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End”, says the Lord, “who is, and was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  Revelation 1:8

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices.  My flesh will also rest in hope.  Psalm 16:9

 

Because

They are a pretty important part of the holidays.  We string the lights.  Hang the lights.  Drive around to see the lights.

They’re on the houses, on the storefronts, on wreaths and doors and lampposts.  We make a big deal out of tree lightings.  Here in West Palm Beach we have a light show every night on the big tree at the waterfront, and lights strung from both sides of the city streets form a twinkling canopy over the road.

Early one morning last week as I plugged in the little white lights I have strung around a mirror in my living room, I wondered why.

Why did lights become such a big thing at Christmas?

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“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

We have lights at Christmas because of Jesus.  Most people don’t recognize that. It never crosses their minds when they are standing on ladders with tangles of bulbs and extension cords, that what they are really doing is heralding the coming of the Light of the World.

When it was so very dark, He came in the night.  A bright star announced Him.  An even brighter host of angels filled the black sky with their “glory in the highest” song.

Tonight when you plug in your trees and your lampposts and your wreaths, when you drive past decorated homes and businesses and shopping centers, when twinkling things make you look and smile, remember this.

We have lights at Christmas because of Jesus.

 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelled in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.                       Isaiah 9:2

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.  Isaiah 60:1

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.  Ephesians 5:8

 

 

 

Longing

I thought I was just frustrated and having a bad day at work. But I realized it went much deeper than that.  What I was actually longing for was for Jesus to come back and make all things new.

That might sound overly dramatic, but let me explain.

It’s been a wacky few years in my office.  There have been about a dozen personnel changes over the past 24 months.  People coming and going, job changes, administrative changes, scheduling issues and a fair amount of stress.  So several weeks ago when it was just one…more…thing… I felt like I had been pushed to the edge of my sanity (now that’s being dramatic).  And I sighed, looked out the window and thought to myself, “I just want everything to be right again.”

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At the time, I didn’t realize how Biblical that longing was.

As I thought about my mini-meltdown later, God reminded me that every time we’re frustrated and stressed over situations that could be better, what we’re really longing for is restoration – the restoration of all things.  We long for everything on this earth to be right again, to be like it was before our sin messed it up, to be like it was in the beginning when God said, “It is good”.

Sometimes it’s more than just silly work drama. The Christmas season itself can stir up that sense of longing for “rightness” even more. Our holiday celebrations may be missing people we love.  Our futures may be uncertain, our worlds turned upside down in spite of the joy of the season.

But Jesus is coming back someday, and for those who have put their faith in Him, everything will be made right.  No more frustration.  No more stress.  No more disappointment and discouragement.  No more unanswered questions.

Restored.

And He that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new”. Revelation 21:15

We just don’t know when that will be. We might make it to heaven first, or we might be here to see it in person. But either way, that’s why we need to keep hanging on, persevering through the hard times, clinging to the promise that everything that threatens to defeat us or break our hearts or test the limits of our sanity will be made absolutely new.

When we find ourselves in those situations where we long for life to be made right again and good again, including the situations we tend to over-dramatize, we need to let them remind us that everything WILL indeed be made right. Someday. In ways far beyond our comprehension.

Perfectly and joyfully right.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:19

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:  Isaiah 40:4

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23

For he satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.  Psalm 107:9

 

 

Feel

It doesn’t feel like Christmas.  No, really.  I’m not just talking about the “oh the year just flew by so quickly and I’m not ready for December” kind of not feeling like Christmas.

Just a few days ago it was 82 degrees outside, with a heat index of 88.  EIGHTY EIGHT, my friends.   Someone asked me why we don’t have ugly Christmas sweater parties around here.  Um, need I say more?

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And so we fake our way through it, with pretend snow and plastic evergreen trees in our living rooms.   We walk under little white lights strung along palm tree fronds. We have a tree lighting downtown – with a Christmas tree carved out of sand. We wear holiday tee-shirts instead of the ugly sweaters.  And we crank up the air conditioning so the cookies baking in the oven don’t melt us in the process. Nope. It doesn’t feel like Christmas, at least for those of us who grew up north of the Florida state line.

But what exactly SHOULD Christmas feel like?

I try to imagine the nip in the air, the scarves, the boots, the crunching snow in the parking lots of the shopping centers, the frost on the windowpanes, the crackling fires, the gifts stacked under the real Christmas trees with the real pine smell.

But if I’m going to be honest, that’s not what Christmas should feel like either.

The Bible doesn’t say, “And this shall be a sign unto you, when the temperature dips and the frost covers the ground, you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes…”.

Feeling like Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with the weather.  Or the lights.  Or the clothing.

Feeling like Christmas is a sense of expectation and longing and joy and celebration.  It’s feeling like the best promise ever made to anyone ever before is about to be fulfilled.

Because it has.

In this season of Advent, I need to keep remembering that.  I need to keep remembering that Christmas is not what the world has led me to believe it is. It’s so much more than temperatures and traditions. It’s about our rescue by a King who masqueraded as a baby so that He could fulfill the best promise ever made.

It may be 82 degrees outside, but I think it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

 

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  Matthew 1:21-23

 

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

 

 

Best

Sometimes the best picking is down the road.  But you need to keep walking.

best picking

That’s the lesson my family learned on a recent apple-picking adventure up north.  We don’t do much apple-picking here in South Florida, so I missed out.  But I got the pictures and even got a few of the apples my littlest nephews picked especially for me when I went home for Thanksgiving.

The orchard had lots of trees and lots of different apples.  And it appeared that the orchard also had lots of people who had already picked over the trees closest to the road.  You know, the easy ones.  The fruit that’s right there as soon as you get on the path.  The low-hanging stuff that doesn’t require a lot of work, or a lot of walking, or a lot of time.

And that’s why they needed a sign to tell people that there was still good picking ahead.  If the sign wasn’t there, it would have been easy for the customers to get discouraged over the lack of options.  It would have  been easy to sigh and complain when the ground was littered with “not so good” bruised and damaged apples, when what they really wanted was a luscious, crisp, drip-down-your-chin piece of heaven.

But that sign gave them hope.  It meant, “Don’t stop here!  Don’t get discouraged! The best is yet to come!”.  They just had to keep walking to find it.

And so it is with life.

We look around and see that our options are limited.  Sometimes it seems like the best opportunities have already been snatched up by others.  We may be tempted to give up, discouraged and disheartened that our life adventure turned out to be unproductive and disappointing. Maybe we’ll even settle for “not so good” because we don’t believe anything better will come along.

But there are signs for us too!  God tells us that there are good things yet to come if we stay on His path.  He promises to give us a future and a hope and drip-down-your-chin blessings.  If we focus on what we don’t have or how hard the path is sometimes or how we think we’re too late for the good stuff, we’re basically saying we don’t believe His promises.  And that’s sad.

Look for the signs. God’s signs. They say, “Don’t stop here!  Don’t get discouraged! The best is yet to come!”.

Yes, indeed. His very best may be just ahead.

 

There is hope in your future, says the LORD,  Jeremiah 31:17

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  Psalm 16:11

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!  Psalm 34:8

But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.  Proverbs 4:18

For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.      Psalm 107:9