This day has been beautiful and emotional and hectic. A day of pressing in to hear from God and encouraging others. The following post is an excerpt from a e-mail I sent some of my friends this morning. The words have continued to ring true and echo throughout my day, so I decided to adapt them to share with you all also.
Yesterday was my sisters’ and friends’ ballet recital, and while I don’t dance with their company anymore, I was able to volunteer as a stage hand, which meant I had the privilege of being present for their dress rehearsals also. During the last dress rehearsal before the show, I was watching a dance to “What Child Is This?” and tears were just running down my cheeks. I don’t know if it was the choreography with the ribbons, or the organ in the majestic music, or the solemnity of the lyrics, or what, but it just gave me such a renewed sense of awe for Christmas. It’s almost as if, for me, Christmas comes around too often—it becomes routine and just something we do every year. I get caught up in making sure I’ve bought everyone’s presents, trying not to get annoyed by Christmas music, and looking at everyone’s lights on their houses. I try not to get triggered by gatherings of extended family, or think too much about how my grandmother isn’t here to celebrate Christmas. But I don’t stop to think about “what Child is this”. I don’t stop to think about how absolutely incredible it is that the God who says “It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth, my right hand that spread out the heavens above. When I call out the stars, they all appear in order.” (Isaiah 48:13) saw that I needed rescuing. And not only did He see that I needed rescuing, He personally came as a human to rescue me. How many times have we cried out to God for rescue with everything in us, wishing that we could just hear His voice or see His plan, not to mention sending a human to us? How many times have we just wanted to hear from God, and that would have been enough for us? And yet He deemed our rescue worth coming to see us in person, in human flesh. And He deemed it worth losing said human flesh. Truly, what Child is this?!? Who would do such a thing? So big. So personal. So mighty. So humble.
I’ve still had United Pursuit’s “Head to the Heart” and Lauren Daigle’s “Remember” on repeat. I just can’t get over them. The line from the first song that says “There’s no shame/In looking like a fool/When I give you what I can’t keep/To take a hold of You” just gets me. There’s a lot of things God has called me to give up in the last year, things that other people shame giving up. I look like a fool, and often feel like one. But everything I’ve given up has been things I can’t keep—treasures on earth rather than in heaven (Matthew 6:20)—and I’ve given them up so that I have more room in my hands to take a hold of God. And I sing that lyric out with all my heart, because I have found that there truly isn’t shame in it. It’s a journey, of letting go and getting lost in God, just like the song says. Putting our names into Isaiah 49:3-4, it reads, “[God] said to ________, ‘You are my servant, _________, and you will bring me glory.’ I replied, ‘But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.’”
In the chapter before that, verses 10-11, it says, “I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering. I will rescue you for my sake—yes, for my own sake! I will not let my reputation be tarnished, and I will not share my glory with idols!”
I’m still on the kick with “Remember” that began the other Wednesday when we sang it in youth group and I said was just overwhelmed by the importance of the lyric about “I CAN’T stop thinking about Your goodness”. We cannot, we must not, stop thinking about God’s goodness. To do so is to allow an incorrect perception of the character of God into our lives, and to shift our focus to it above who God really is, thus creating an idol. To do so is to damage God’s reputation. To misrepresent Him. God has a lot at stake to rescue you too—not just your own wellbeing, but His very reputation. And He has said He will not allow His reputation to be tarnished. In chapter 52 verses 15-16, He says, “For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea, causing its waves to roar. My name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And I have put my words in your mouth and hidden you safely in my hand. I stretched out the sky like a canopy and laid the foundations of the earth. I am the one who says to Israel, ‘You are my people!’”
He is so BIG it blows my mind. And it blows the dust of my mind that was blown from that again because He cares for me, out of all His creation. He listens when I cry. He listens when I scream. He listens when I don’t have anything left to say to Him, because Holy Spirit tells Him what’s in my heart, groaning on behalf of my sorrow and confusion (Romans 8:26).
Out of everything He created—stars, snails, sea urchins—He decided to make us out of dust. Out of the dirt of the ground. And as ordinary as that is, He made it above all creation simply by blowing His breath into our lungs. And in these hard and painful and confusing times, He remembers—we’re only dust. (Psalm 103:14) We’re doing the best we can. And I think He gives us a little more of His breath of life to help us through.
To close, Isaiah 46:3-4:
“Listen to me, ___________. I have cared for you since before you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”
Above all, this is the time of year when God is known by His name Emmanuel, that is, God with us. The holidays are hard for all of us, but for different reasons and arguably differing intensity. Yet it is at this time of year that God reintroduces Himself to us as the God that is with us.
Let’s get to know Him as Emmanuel this week.
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