We’re operating on two different levels today, aren’t we?
Genuine smiles light our faces. We’re surrounded by glittering trees, glowing candles, precious people, and mouth-watering food.
We’re grateful. Full of joy and goodwill.
There’s something deeper. The pain of loss. A heartache. The something that hurts or haunts. The reminder that peace on earth is not yet reality.
It’s for this that Christ came.
The sin that said “God’s trying to cheat me out of what I need. I’ll do it my way.”
The sinners who broke all that was supposed to be beautiful.
Because of sin, we hurt.
Dysfunction. Abuse. Abandonment.
Betrayal. Envy. Narcissism.
It’s all ugly... what’s been done to us... what we’ve done to others.
Yet despite the horrific mess, He came.
Because of it.
What a beautiful Savior!
One who would come and embrace us in all our filth and stench.
One who reaches into the gutters of the world… who lifts up the worst of sinners and most desperate victims.
One who sees every crying, love-starved child, every wounded wife, every dishonored parent. Every war, every oppression, every injustice.
None of use deserve help. We’re hopelessly lost in the darkness of guilt.
But still He comes.
He came as a human, lived life on Earth, and died for our redemption.
He comes today, beckoning us into relationship with Him. Promising freedom, forgiveness, and eternal life to any who receive it… who stop trying to clean themselves up and simply trust Him.
Our souls find rest in Him. Our eternal future is secure.
But of course, our flesh is still on Earth today. Our battle of the here and now continues.
And in despair I bowed my head: "There is no peace on earth," I said, "For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men."
We’re going to feel the pain, this side of Heaven. We were made to feel. To feel is to be human… made in God’s image.
He too feels.
He too knows these conflicting levels from which we operate today.
He smiles at our family gatherings, yet knows the turmoil hidden in each heart.
He delights in the snowfall, or the sunrise, or the rolling waves, yet knows why our tears fall as we soak in the beauty.
But He knows even more.
He sees the big picture.
The end of pain, yes! But also the purpose and glory that outweigh it all.
And today? He’s measuring out the grace it's going to take. Every morsel of strength. All the love and power and help our journey requires.
My friend, He came, yes.
But our God is still with us. He is Emmanuel.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.*
Praying your heart rests in Emmanuel this Christmas.
*from "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow