“In Him was life, and His life was the Light of men… the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” –John 1:4, 9, 14
This Christmas season, my ministry travels have taken me to the land of the Midwest for visits, conversations, and times of encouraging the Body through the relationships God’s opened up for me in this region. While it’s strange to be away from home this year, God continues to reveal that home truly is wherever He is, and I know He’s with me here.
Last night, I got to visit a friend’s church to participate and support her as she led a “Christmas Quiet” time of Christian meditation for fellow members of her church community. We used the Ignatian spiritual exercise of meditating on a specific passage from the Scriptures (a key feature and distinctive in truly Christian meditation), this time holding in focus the account of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2 to see what God might want to say to and shape in each of us personally and collectively.
And what I found in this story I’ve read countless times over the years surprised me…
As I reflected on it and the images and sounds from the scene came to mind, for the first time, I heard in my imagination the decree loudly and suddenly announced by a man in the village square: There was to be a census by Caesar Augustus’ authority. My mind then “cut” to a scene of an extremely crowded Bethlehem at night, where I noticed and saw in my mind’s eye a strong, deliberate, and kind Joseph leading Mary through the city of David’s darkened streets with donkey in tow, her slightly pained and wearied expression apparent after making such a long trek as a due-at-any-moment expectant mother.
Mmmm…oh the tension in the waiting! I could see something of myself in Mary’s weary expression.
Do you know what I mean?
When God interrupts your world and plans to declare His own plans grounded in His holy lovingkindness and faithful goodness, you are initiated into a journey WITH Him. And like I imagine Mary experienced (see Luke 1:26-56), you find an initial befuddlement and fear at His strange words, a critical moment to say “yes” at His invite, and a rush of excitement at God’s declaration.
But as time goes on and you await the growth of the seed of His Word that He implants in you, the excitement can wane, the doubts assail, and the weariness of the journey up to now can take its toll. You’ve likely seen God come through so far and your faith has grown immensely than at the start. You have the sense that something is going to break, but…
It’s STILL not here yet.
To quote pastor and speaker Chris Brown, “Have you been there?”
I have and am. I could see myself in Mary’s shoes. As I leaned into that picture, the tension of rest in the promise of God coming to full fruition at any moment and yet sincere worry over entering into the unknown of the birthing process suddenly and at any moment struck me profoundly…
Here she was at the cusp of seeing the fulfillment of God’s declaration through the angel Gabriel. I imagine she wondered…
What will having this baby be like? Where would it happen? Will this Child really be the One we expected? Ohhhh…this discomfort! Will Joseph find us a place before the time comes? We’re so far from home and there’s no place for us, will someone make room for us?
And as God continues to remind me of the promises He’s made in my life, to fulfill His promises from the Scriptures and the specifically directed invitations to journey with Him in areas unique to my life, I find myself nearing the edge of entering into the full realization of those hopes, expectations, and desires. I too am wondering when things will “break” for me. I’ve seen His beautiful Hand leading and guiding as I said “yes” to His invitations to me, and I’ve experienced so much growth. I couldn’t have imagined all He and I would experience together on this faith journey to, not unlike Abraham, leave the known and “Go to a ‘land’ I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1-4)
And so as I write this, with Christmas just 8 days away, and the sun currently breaking through the snow-sprinkling clouds at my right, I am expectant for how the Light of His Son will come suddenly, breaking through the season of carrying His Word expectantly within and seeing the full birth of all that He has promised. The Lord faithfully did just as He promised to Mary and Joseph, Abraham, and countless others as Scripture attests.
And now, I smile in the beautifully warm light of the sun and await the joy that is to be delivered through me.