Fragility of Time

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As I walked around the house Christmas night, tidying up the kitchen and wiping everything down. The Christmas dishes washed and ready to be placed back in their lonely box until next year, I caught a reflection in a Christmas Bauble on the tree, which was sitting quite alone in the living room — the family no longer gathered around its evergreen branches — packages unwrapped and sitting under it — all was quiet.

I saw reflections of love and laughter and joy that had been unpackaged throughout the day. Hearts that reflected Christmases that have long been packed away in our remembrances and new ones that will be wrapped in the fragility of time.

That red Christmas ornament gave me glimpses of all that the Lord has lavished on me throughout the years — the blessings that have been counted one-by-one — the aroma of Christ…come wrapped as a Babe and placed in a feeding trough. The red causing me to recall His blood shed on a tree that bore only two decorations — a plaque that read, “Jesus King of the Jews,” and not a shining, glittering star, like the one God placed over Bethlehem to lead the Wise men to the babe, but a crown of thorns that pierced His brow. The gift given? Salvation, to the world — not wrapped in shiny paper, rather wrapped in Grace and Mercy. All that He has given in His goodness to me — strung, if you will, like lights wrapped around the Christmas Tree…encircling my life and wrapped tightly much like Mary wrapped the Christ-Child in swaddling clothes.

He gives to us generously from His store-house — He sifts those gifts and blessings through His sovereign hands — sifting out that which would cause harm — keeping that which would mature and sanctify. Some gifts we don’t understand, but they are gifts nonetheless — given by a Father who loves us and He only gives good gifts.

As I lean down to unplug and extinguish the lights on that Christmas Tree, I am reminded that He is the Light of the world that can never be extinguished…forever beckoning the wayward to “come unto Me.”

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)

With the room darkened and only the street light shining through the front window blinds, I sit in a nearby chair to think about the past year. It has been a tough year for all of us and even tougher on some. We’ve ploughed through a pandemic, school closures, businesses shuttered their windows, and for many even death.

“Lord, please show me the reason…the lesson…the value in these things we do not understand?” As I ask the question, the room is still…the night is quiet…my family is asleep…my question is answered.

While 2020 has been one of the most difficult times I can remember in our country and the world, I know from His Word that the things that have passed were necessary and there is more to come.

“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:6-14)

We must be ready — ready to persevere — ready to share the Gospel with others — ready to withstand the tribulations that are coming. Our purpose, as He tarries a bit longer, is to make Christ known and bring others with us into eternity.

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Be ready to give an answer to those around you by the word of your testimony, as to why you follow Christ. Be ready to help them understand their need for Jesus and why He came — that is to save us.

“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:14-15)

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Therefore, gird yourself…put on the whole armor of God, for we will be in the toughest battle of our lives until the end. He will equip us, He will help us, He will comfort us, He will abide with us.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Soli Deo Gloria


A Manger Shadowed by a Tree

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving always ushers in the promise of Christmas. When I was growing up in Virginia, we knew that as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes could be washed and put away that the Christmas Tree would be cut down and all of the decorating would begin. There were Christmas Tree balls, lights, tinsel, and the smells of Cinnamon and Cocoa, as goodies cooked in the oven.

Those few weeks leading up to that “magical” day were filled with busy. We bustled from one house to another expecting laughter with cousins, kisses from aunts and uncles, and all the pure love we could get from our grandparents. Packages were left under their trees, as were left under ours when they visited. Everyday we visited our Christmas Tree to see what new packages had arrived and we would pick them up and shake them hoping to figure out what was inside.

The thrill of all that Christmas promised was more than my child-heart could contain and I always so looked forward to every minute of it. I enjoyed the decorations and presents, but that which my heart loved most was our family being together and laughing and enjoying how we were all connected sinew by sinew — strengthened, loved, and cared for because we belong to one another.

Family and friend relationships are so very important as we sojourn this harsh world. Our human experience of suffering and disconnect is restored by coming together during the holidays. We all long for those times, but we know, and especially in 2020, how fragile such is. The pandemic that has torn through our year…taken captives…left many lost and without family because of quarantines, and sadly death has left darkness in many lives.

However, if we reflect on the reason we celebrate Christmas, it all becomes clearer and perhaps we can be comforted.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25

Salvation had been born in a cave and laid in a feeding trough! The Messiah, promised to the Jews, did not come as the King or Ruler they were looking for, rather He came in helplessness and needed to be nurtured and loved and cared for so that He could then, as a man, be beaten, flogged, and nailed to a tree — a cruel Roman cross. God came to earth on what we call Christmas. He packaged Himself in the form of a Babe born to a virgin, Mary, and an earthly father, Joseph. These two did not erect a tree with lights and tinsel — no, they laid God — Immanuel — Jesus — in a feeding trough that was shadowed not by a Christmas Tree, but a cross. He was not wrapped in shiny paper with bows…He was wrapped instead in swaddling clothes and then death clothes.

Yet, what is the Hope?? He is our Hope! Before the foundation of the world God had a plan — His plan would redeem us to Himself.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:21-25

As you gather for Christmas and gaze up on the lights and presents, do not forget He who came to give you the gift of everlasting life! There is no greater gift, hope, or joy!

“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:9-14

Soli Deo Gloria