The familiar reminders: a life-size nativity in the hospital lobby, lights on other people’s homes, winter wind driving leaves across crowded parking lots, and piped carols in restaurants and stores tell me Christmas is approaching. But the build-up this year has seemed strangely foreign, in a sense hollowed out. And in the place of all that formerly stirred anticipation inside me, there is quiet and ample room for Jesus to come. It dawned on me this week that He planned this year’s advent for the two of us before Mary laid Him in a manger. Night after night He sings carols of joy over me and shares secrets from His “Christmas encyclopedia.” My heart overflows!!
I must admit to striving initially to lay hold of the Christmas spirit. Last weekend, I set my table with Christmas linens and dishes and bought two Glade Christmas scented candles. I toyed with the idea of going to Bath and Body Works for some fragrant holiday lotion to trigger in me the desired mood. My son and I, on a chilly evening, took holiday drinks and dessert and looked at local Christmas lights. It began to “feel” a lot like Christmas, but at the same time from the depths of that hollow place there sprang a cry for more. I sensed God inviting me to spend time in the book of Luke. He also directed me to buy a few Christmas cd’s on the sales table at Family Christian Bookstore. Deep called out to Deep, and He answered!!
He came like a winter snow as I listened to my new favorite Christmas song on the way to work. That evening I had spoken with my daughter on the phone before leaving for work. I hung up feeling helpless, a mom with an inferno of desire for her to be blessed burning out of control in me. I wept prayer, and then selected this song from one of the aforementioned CD’s. Not only did I listen to the words as I played and replayed it, but I surrendered to the sweet comfort of Jesus through it as He came and overshadowed me, a quiet cooling blanket of pure white snow upon my feverish heart. I knew He understood!! I knew in that hollow place that He was present and gifting me with a sampling of Christmas joy.
The following night, my heart again longing for Him, and for a peace-filled holiday in the company of my children, I raised a cry to God while driving to work. I expressed my desire for a vacation from brokenness, from conflict, and from heartache. I sensed a battle in progress. I saw myself clinging tenaciously to my dreams of “peace” in this life, and knew I must let go. Then I put in the Casting Crowns Peace on Earth cd God directed me to buy. I didn’t anticipate Him answering my prayer so quickly, and yet as I listened to this cd for the first time, God responded to my cry through the words on the first track!! He spoke volumes to me through I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day. And, in that hollow place in me that yearns for His transcendent peace, I heard the Christmas bells ringing loud and deep, and choirs of angels singing. Christmas came inside me and I couldn’t keep the joy to myself. I gathered my work bag and under the glow of Christmas lights atop the hospital where I work I walked inside with God and joined Him in spreading goodwill to men.
Merry Christmas, and please listen to Winter Snow and I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day and be blessed!!
Rest in the shadow, Terry