The Lord is Near… (or 6 Days Until Christmas)

In lieu of Christmas cards this year, I write. Reflecting on 2009, there’s a major theme I see in everything that’s happened this year: God is near. He’s in the midst of our most joyous seasons, but even more profound to me now, He walks with us in the midst of our deepest valleys. He is the compassionate God. Compassion. Compati… He bears our burdens. He suffers alongside. He feels our pain… our intense, difficult, personal pain.

Some people may not be comfortable with the idea of God feeling pain, but He does and He did in Christ. We move His heart because we are His children. To have compassion and to suffer alongside, I think, does not imply a weakness or deficiency, but an immense strength, humility, and courage. As I think about it, this verse comes to mind… “Bear one anothers’ burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

No matter how it might appear to us who are in the eye of its storm, our pain is not evidence of His departure or hiding His face from us because of something we did or didn’t do, because of something we are or aren’t. As C.S. Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” And in it, I hear Him say to my heart, “I’m here. Draw near to Me. Rest, and let me take you through this.”

I’m beginning to understand why Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! …the Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5) within a context that talks about anxiousness and how to deal, struggles and what to think, and contentment and how to live as such whether on the mountain or in the dark ravine. Yes, God is near. God is with us. Immanuel.

“O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel. That mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel… shall come to thee, O Israel…

And God indeed came in Christ Whose birth we celebrate in this Christmas season. Yes, let’s celebrate Him every day, but let’s not lose this opportunity to stop, refocus, and set our eyes on Jesus in the remaining weeks of December. For all who need hope, rejoice! For those who yearn for His Kingdom come, His will be done, rejoice! The God who suffers with, the God who walks with, and the God who is mighty to save has come. He is indeed with us.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Isaiah 49:8-26

Thus says the LORD,
“In a favorable time I have answered You,
And in a day of salvation I have helped You;
And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people,
To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages;

Saying to those who are bound, ‘Go forth,’
To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves ‘
Along the roads they will feed,
And their pasture will be on all bare heights.

“They will not hunger or thirst,
Nor will the scorching heat or sun strike them down;
For He who has compassion on them will lead them
And will guide them to springs of water.

“I will make all My mountains a road,
And My highways will be raised up.

“Behold, these will come from afar;
And lo, these will come from the north and from the west,
And these from the land of Sinim.”

Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth!
Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains!
For the LORD has comforted His people
And will have compassion on His afflicted.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.

“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.

“Your builders hurry;
Your destroyers and devastators
Will depart from you.

“Lift up your eyes and look around;
All of them gather together, they come to you
As I live,” declares the LORD,
“You will surely put on all of them as jewels and bind them on as a bride.

“For your waste and desolate places and your destroyed land–
Surely now you will be too cramped for the inhabitants,
And those who swallowed you will be far away.

“The children of whom you were bereaved will yet say in your ears,
‘The place is too cramped for me;
Make room for me that I may live here.’

“Then you will say in your heart,
‘Who has begotten these for me,
Since I have been bereaved of my children
And am barren, an exile and a wanderer?
And who has reared these?
Behold, I was left alone;
From where did these come?'”

Thus says the Lord GOD,
“Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations
And set up My standard to the peoples;
And they will bring your sons in their bosom,
And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.

“Kings will be your guardians,
And their princesses your nurses
They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth
And lick the dust of your feet;
And you will know that I am the LORD;
Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.

“Can the prey be taken from the mighty man,
Or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?”

Surely, thus says the LORD,
“Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away,
And the prey of the tyrant will be rescued;
For I will contend with the one who contends with you,
And I will save your sons.

“I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh,
And they will become drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine;
And all flesh will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior
And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

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