On the edge of the first day of winter – the Winter Solstice – and a fast approaching cold front that will bring lows in the 30s to orange grove country, my thoughts turn inward. Like Mary, I ponder – consider, reflect on, think about carefully – many things this season.
I can’t stop thinking about the Christmas trees in Newtown – gifts piled under them, names written on the tags of packages that will never be opened. How Christmas will come and go from now on and the memories will hang in the air, unspoken perhaps, but always there. How will they get through this?
The combination of joy and beauty bring our emotions to the edge of open wonder at this season, but with it comes also the rawness of disappointment, failure, shame and guilt, even anger. We often swim confused in the miasmic sea of thoughts and feelings.
What are we to do with it all? Is there a word of direction or comfort? Something we can cling to when overwhelm becomes our nest?
Be of Good Cheer
When I was in high school, I choose John 16:33 as my life verse. I have no idea why. My life – other than the death of my sister – seemed perfect. Parents who loved and cared for me, enough money to take care of my needs and a lot of my wants, a growing relationship with Christ. I guess I just liked the assurance of those words.
“Be of good cheer” is used eight times in the New Testament and isn’t too far removed in definition from “good tidings” – the message of the angels to the shepherds on that first Christmas Eve.
Might you need that message right now, whether you’re finishing up the final details of work, or baking cookies with green sprinkles on them, or feeling depressed like you do every Christmas?
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Be of good cheer is translated take heart, be encouraged, be comforted. It seems like a trick that Jesus would say “When you encounter overwhelming circumstances that rip at your heart and weigh you down, be of good cheer.”
“That’s not fair,” I want to cry.
“I know,” He says. “But I am here. Right now. And all that stuff you’re focusing on? It’s expanding the more you look at it. Besides, I’ve won the case against you. I defeated all your enemies. Can you be cheered by that news?“
Live Your Own Story with Courage
On Christmas Day, I will go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I’ve been waiting two years and anticipation is high.
Why? Because Bilbo Baggins’ story so parallels our own. Like Gandalf, God says, “I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.” Every adventure has danger, excitement, huge obstacles, and an impossible task. Isn’t that the story of your life?
And every adventure involves fear and risk; it requires courage.
After the invitation, Gandalf says to Bilbo, “You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.”
“You will promise that I’ll come back?” asks Bilbo.
“No. And if you do, you’ll not be the same.”
The Answer to Everything
There’s only one answer to how we make it through, you know. It’s the presence of Christ. Once we decide to live with the knowledge of His continual presence, we’re never the same.
How do you receive His presence today? Like you receive everything – by faith. You choose it. The Holy Spirit IS the presence of Christ. To receive the Spirit is to receive Christ Himself.
“As human beings, we can be dwellings of the living Christ. We can be a continuous embodiment and incarnation of Jesus Christ in the world.” Daniel Vestal
Mary modeled what it means when she responded to Gabriel’s message: Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word (Luke 1:38).
This is the very essence of faith, saying yes to the wonder, yes to the surprise, and even yes to the trials and testings – the sufferings that transform us into His image.
It all goes together. It is your own adventure story.