A Thrill of Hope

Another Christmas come and gone already!?

It seems impossible to me.
It's strange really.
How quickly it passes. How much life fills the moments.

I do love that with each Christmas I'm even more inspired. More in awe. Another little magic piece settled deeper still into my heart.

I know they say that the older we get, the less magical it all seems. Christmas especially.

I have not found that to be so.
Every time I read the stories or sing the songs, who He is becomes so much more to me. A lyric or a verse or a tradition connects in a different way-in just the right way- and all of a sudden He is more. So much more than ever before...then I ever knew He could be. Just when I think I know all of Him or at least enough, still there is more. And forever there will be more.

Currently I am teaching Bible to middle schoolers in Guadalajara, MX. I spent the last two weeks before Christmas working through activities with the kids in which we looked for Jesus in the Old Testament. Many of them (and I would argue many Christians as well) had no idea that Jesus was not just a “New Testament thing.”

I'm here to tell you, Jesus is most certainly not just a “New Testament thing!” And knowing that and understanding it is so very important. I once had a college professor tell us that the only difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is that one looks ahead to Jesus coming and the other looks back on His life. But the entirety of the Bible points to Him and is founded on Him. That forever changed the way I read the Bible, and I hope it will for you as well.

I spent time showing my students that there were countless prophecies about Jesus scattered throughout the Old Testament. Where and how He would be born and to whom. Very specific details foretold thousands of years before that night in Bethlehem. That through years-centuries-generations- God was reminding His people that He would send someone to make things right.  And as I was preparing and teaching, one idea kept resonating in my heart and my spirit.

From the moment we chose sin over Him in the garden, we are able to see His heart and character of redemption. He could have wiped the slate clean, started from scratch when we messed up. Created a new world with new people who might have chosen differently. (Genesis 3:14-15- “The First Gospel”)

But that is not His heart.

His heart is to redeem.
To reach into the places that seem the most desolate and redeem them with His presence. To reach into the hearts that seem the most broken and empty and repair and refill them with the wholeness of who He is.
To redeem darkness with light.
Lies with truth.
Despair with hope.
To call the lost things found and the forgotten things known.

But how could He show us His heart?

He tried. For so long. The entire Old Testament is God trying to show us Himself through people and laws and countless moments of mercy and rescue and grace and redemption. But somehow, we just weren't getting it. At least not in the way He had hoped. And so He knew. He had to send us Himself. And he knew the only way was to come into our context. To speak our language.
To be with us.
He did what no other god ever has. No other creator would live among his created. No other god cares that his people worship him freely of their own desire. Only He leaves it to us. To choose. To see or not. To believe or not. To worship or not. And He wanted to give us every reason to love Him. To choose Him. So He came to show us how deeply He loved us and longed for us to love Him in return.

I try to imagine how it felt when He finally came. Living in the world when it seemed the emptiest and broken beyond repair. When the entire world was tired and hurting. Aching. When it felt as if light or hope might never come. As if all of the promises had been for nothing.

Suddenly. Or so it seemed to us.
One night. A simple but brave and obedient girl by her brave and obedient husband gave birth to God. In the lowliest of places in the lowliest of towns surrounded by the lowliest of people.

Because that's where He always shows up. In the places and people that the world looks past and looks down on. And in times when we least expect Him but when we need Him the most.

And there was hope.
There was light.
There was love and change and truth.
There He was.

And the world has never been the same. History rests on Him coming to us. We see it all in the light of before and after Him.

And I don't know about you, but I'm forever thankful to be on this end of the arrow. I know He was there all along, but what a gift we have been given to be able to open our Bible and see the whole story. The beautiful, glimmering thread that is Him woven through it all. I know that sometimes even just a lengthy amount of time spent reading and studying the Old Testament is heavy and tiring for me. Why!? Because even in the reading and reflecting on those centuries before Jesus came, we feel the lack of Him. The need for Him. We long for the fulfillment of those promises. When finally we can be free from sin and and law. And what joy I feel when I flip to that back section of my Bible! Life after Jesus. Even in the reading I can sense the shift! So imagine living it!

I could go on. And on. And on.
But let me leave you with these lyrics. With all of the above stirring in your heart, I hope they settle deeper into your heart this year. This one became my favorite a few years back when I finally allowed the words and their meaning to take root. Now I can hardly make it to verse two without tears streaming down my cheeks. In this song, I see Christmas. In this song, I see His heart. And if we break it down and make it simple, Christmas is His heart.

(A fun little Christmas craft I did to keep these beautiful words around me.)

Friends. We are living in that new and glorious morn!

The truth is this:
The world is scary and messy and sinful. The world is lost and in need of Jesus.

But friends.

THE GREATER truth is this:
He came! He's here! No longer do we need to hurt and ache in darkness and hopelessness because the light and the hope is ours! Ever present. The answer to our deepest hurts and the sense to our biggest messes.

Let's not live as if He never came; as if he didn't show us His heart.  As if we don't have THE answer. As if He isn't here still. Because He did. He is.

Another Christmas come and gone.
God with us. December 25, 26, January 1 and far beyond. Hope for today and forever.
Carry on pearl-friends! And carry His heart with you.

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