arts · church · faith

exchanging Christmas

Maybe you didn’t get what you wanted this year either. There’s a high probability that this is true for you, whoever you are reading this. Maybe there are things that happened that prevent you from really engaging in the beauty and wonder of the season. Maybe your life is so painful and the hurt so deep, you walked through this week like it was a thick fog and you’re just now seeing any kind of clearing up ahead.

Thing is that all our pictures are messed up. We know it. We sometimes try to ignore it. We pretend it isn’t that bad. Or worse, we compare ours to everyone else’s and stay in a constant state of discontent or self-righteousness.

This past week, I spent a lot of time clicking LIKE on every picture I saw on Facebook because it was so sweet to see the many families and faces that I love and care for over the years. I took time to look at every single picture on my news feed and look at the faces and think about people I have known and how very blessed I am for such a beautiful, diverse group of people from all walks of life and nearly every demographic. It did my heart good.

But I also know that behind some of those eyes are tears. Behind some of the smiles are hurt, pain, anger, confusion. I know sadness shows up like a smudge on the camera lens. I know that for some of you, someone is missing from the family pic. Maybe because of family tensions, arrogance, pride, inflexible grudges, or maybe a tragedy. Well, it’s all tragedy really, but maybe it was a real deep sadness – an illness, accidents, things that you never expect in a hundred years but feel the weight of and grieve every day and a hundred times more on the holiday. These things may not appear in your photo. But they are there. They are like a backdrop and if you look closely enough, it starts to make the photo seem darker and maybe a little bit more blurry. And those are the people whose stories I know about. I could take a guess that there are many, many others who are living their own worst fears and stresses that no one else knows about.

And so, your holiday just could not possibly live up to the hype. The joy wasn’t delivered on time. The heartache storm was too heavy and destructive to let anything else through. But there are no returns or exchanges on the past. What’s done is done. What’s gone is gone. And we press on. We send each other platitudes like 2017 is over soon and we can wipe the slate clean. I really wish. I wish I could do that for some of you who I know are living through dark times. I wish I could blow up the bridge to your past and help you start a whole new life. I can’t. I wish I knew how. Honestly, I know it’s impossible. It’s just not the way it works. And attempts to do something like that always, always go very, very wrong.

This is where I say something like Jesus renews you. God has plans to redeem your life from the pit and give you a new life, HIS life for you. It sounds so good. It sounds too good to be true. It’s true. Of course it is. But I’ll be honest. It can sometimes feel more painful than the original pain. It can push you into deeper darkness than you have ever felt before. It will feel worse before, maybe long before, it feels better.

Good stuff, Robin. Thanks a lot.

Let’s be honest. No one actually wants Jesus. Jesus is complicated. Jesus is hard. Jesus makes a mess of things. Jesus convicts and crushes. Without even saying a word, his very presence makes the hardest of hearts shrink in fear. Our every sin and shame cowers and hisses like rabid animals at the mention of his name. There is great power and great terror.

I was reminded of this in the book Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe which my husband is reading to our girls for the first time. 99% of it goes right over their little sleepy heads, but I know that some of it is seeping in. It comes out when you least expect it and it amazes me how kids process things. What I love most about reading it as a family is how certain parts hit you in a new way because you’re looking at your children’s faces and hearing your husband’s voice, and it’s all so glorious.

“People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.” He isn’t safe, but he is good. CS Lewis was certainly a man who could turn a phrase or two. He captures the beauty and power of our Savior King, the Lion of Judah, the Creator and Sustainer of Life.

So why our despair? Why our discontent? Maybe it’s been too long since you’ve really been to Narnia. Maybe it’s been too long since you’ve come face to face with Aslan. Maybe the cares and sorrows of our world have taken you. Maybe you’ve become bewitched by stolen power and Turkish delights. Maybe you’ve forgotten the old songs, the old stories. Maybe you’ve forgotten the Deep Magic. The magic that demanded blood. The magic that was met once and for all on the great Stone Table.

We forget so soon. We give in to doubt and worry and sorrow. We look to people and things and happenings to refill our joy. We look at the mounting woes of life and let them rob us of our security and peace. We look for signs and wonders as if we know what they look and feel like.

Are you looking at the right place? If your vision is covered in darkness and doubt, you’re looking in the wrong places. Have you focused on the gifts instead of the Giver? Have you TURNED and looked for HIM?

Help me see Jesus in a new and powerful way, dear Lord. Oh, how we need to see Jesus. No exchanges, no returns, no refunds. Don’t let us settle for any lesser things.

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