Two days before Christmas, I pull my hiking boots on and crisscross the laces, tying tightly. Misted sky is cold, dripping. No wished-for snow.
I choose a different path today, the one to the east. Normally, I head west but the evergreens in the forest look so lovely in the mist. I will start there.
As I walk, I pray. I pray for those I love who are sick, hurting. So many. Including our daughter whose medications were adjusted on Monday because of a Bipolar relapse after nearly a year of being stable.
I pray thanks for God’s great love that has no bounds, no beginning or end. I praise him in this mist and cold. I praise him no matter my lot, though I’ve known dark days. God provides. He always loves.
I hike the whole perimeter and interior trails of our 44 acres. I come around the southwest bend, tired now, my boots muddied and wet. The fog hovers thick on the field as I keep trekking, one foot in front of the other, on yet another overcast day where eyes cannot see sun.
By a wild apple tree, stripped of leaves, shriveled fruit clinging by a thread of stem, I see a depression coming. The path dips low and the dirt gleams black. Surely, murky waters await. I press on.
Shall I walk around them? Shall I plod straight through? The depression is too wide to jump on my own.
Suddenly, down in the depth, I see a swath of water intersected by another—a cross of water in the depression of my path.
I lift each muddied, heavy boot high and sink both into the liquid cross of that depression! I splash up mud! I get soaking wet! I laugh out-loud, still stomping like a kid in a rainy day puddle! In that swollen and murky depression, I find joy in the splash of the cross.
I know for some, Christmas doesn’t feel like JOY. Neither did Christ’s cross. Or the crosses we all must face on Christmas and all other days. I remember–Christ was born for the cross. Christ was born for beyond the cross. And so were we.
In the here and now . . .
There are terrors. There are atrocities. There are illnesses.
Loss lurks at our doors, trying to steal away Joy, dragging her out, throwing her down, stomping her mercilessly intent on snuffing her breath till there’s none left.
So we must FIGHT for JOY, we JOY-holders! We must hold her tight in times of trial.
And who are we?
We are those who have a blessed assurance because of a birth and a cross. We are those who know the wonders of God’s love born in a manger, crucified on wood. We are those whose sins have been washed clean by Christ’s blood, shed for us all to set us free from all our wounds.
And even though we all walk through valleys of shadows sometimes, we stay fixed on what lay ahead—on WHO is ahead—and beside—and behind—and over—and under.
Because absolutely nothing can separate us from the LOVE of God in CHRIST JESUS. No financial set back or collapse. No sickness. No emotion. No thought. No fill-in-the-blank with your own distress.
The Christ of Christmas is our living HOPE.
The Christ of Christmas is our inextinguishable LIGHT.
Yet, there is pain on Earth, as Tozer states in The Knowledge of the Holy . . .
Earth is the place where the pleasures of love are mixed with pain, for sin is here, and hate and ill will. In such a world as ours love must sometimes suffer, as Christ suffered in giving Himself for His own. But we have the certain promise that the causes of sorrow will finally be abolished and the new race enjoy forever a world of selfless, perfect love . . . True Christian joy is the heart’s harmonious response to the Lord’s song of love.
The Christ of Christmas doesn’t frost over sad. The Christ of Christmas sends those he loves to LOVE the hopeless and give them Good News.
Let’s come to Christmas with compassion—the passion of Christ for the lost, for the sick, for the hurting.
Let’s be a bearer of the gospel, the Good News, that Jesus Christ came and died so we can live with JOY now forever, even in the not-yet perfect.
Let’s be the holders of HOPE for that holy-day coming when he appears in glory, making the crooked straight and the dark light.
There is no gift we can give like Jesus. There is no gift we can receive any better. Jesus is . . .
Our Hope. Our Peace. Our Joy. Our Love.
God. With. Us.
Now and forever.
Upon a path I dared to trod
And came, a cross, the love of God