Joy in the Midst

Today is December 17th. 10 years ago, my church-family had just eaten a Christmas dinner. I came back home, but that light-and-fluffy Christmas feeling was the last thing on my mind. I was thinking about Christmas 2004 – a special one because my uncle and his family came for lunch. 6 months later, after a battle with cancer, my uncle was gone. 17 December was exactly 6 months after he died, and I sat there wondering what comfort I could offer his family. That was the day I wrote this song:
Last thing at night, Christmas Eve;
Excited children unable to sleep,
But she is rememb’ring Christmas last year,
Spent with an uncle no longer here:
She’s filled with love and compassion,
As she thinks of a card with a missing name –
A boy fatherless, a new widow,
And what can she find to give them?
The words of her pastor ring in her ears, spoken in these last weeks,
About joy in the midst of unhappiness; that’s what she wants them to know:
A joy that comes from peace with God, and peace with God only because
In the small town of Bethlehem, a Saviour was born to us.

Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Goodwill to men, on whom His favour rests:
Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Hope to the weary, bereaved, and distressed
.

You may be sat, listening,
Wond’ring why someone would write such a song,
But someday you may be in the same place,
Pond’ring a loved one you cannot embrace:
I hope – with love and compassion –
That even though things can’t be the same,
The truth of Christmas – the baby in the manger –
Will take on a sweeter meaning:
The words of the Bible will ring in your ears; tell you afresh of God’s love,
Healer of hearts and the Bread of Life; that’s who I want you to know:
The One who brings us peace with God, and peace with God only because
In the small town of Bethlehem, a Saviour was born to us.

Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Goodwill to men, on whom His favour rests:
Peace on earth, peace on earth!
Hope to the weary, bereaved, and distressed
.

Jesus is the Saviour,
And I would encourage you – while you have time –
To meet Him, love Him, cling to Him;
Don’t be robbed of your joy.

* * *

Bonnie’s OneWordAdvent focus for this week is joy, and that’s what I want to pass on to you: That you can be going through the most awful of circumstances, you can be in the most unhappy place, but you can still have the joy of knowing you’re right with God – of knowing that this Jesus, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day, came into the world to bridge the gap between you and a holy God, so that you could know Him personally. That’s something to be joyful about (whether it’s a loud celebratory kind of joy or a quieter, more reflective one), so I wish you a joyful, Christ-filled Christmas.

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The God of Hope

If ever anyone needed hope, surely it’s …  Well, sometimes I could say, surely it’s me.  Perhaps you could too, but the great news is that Christians serve a God of hope, who can fill us with joy and peace when we trust Him (Romans 15:13).

 

About fifteen months before Jesus was born, a man (one of the priests) was on-duty as usual.  In fact, the whole of life was pretty much going on as usual.  His wife was past childbearing age, and he had long accepted that the joy of bringing up children wouldn’t be theirs.  They both loved and served God wholeheartedly.  He could well remember the fervent prayers they had uttered time and again, but with the advancing years came a heaviness that settled on his heart.  As he saw new parents bring in their baby sons for the purification ritual, he would realise afresh that his and Elizabeth’s cries had been to no avail.

 

But God saw those baby sons too, as well as the pain of Zechariah’s loss, and He sent an angel to turn it on its head.  “Your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,” the angel said.

 

His season of pain was over.  The silence, the gnawing ache that had been there so long, and Zechariah couldn’t quite get it.  Imagine him saying through gritted teeth those words he must have repeated to himself every time that old, familiar desire clawed at his heart.  “I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.”  Be reasonable.  These are the facts.  Get over it, but getting over it wasn’t in God’s plan for Zechariah.  His patience had paid off.  His prayer had been heard!  Their cries hadn’t been to no avail.  The God of hope had come into their world; flipped it over; given their lives a whole new and unexpected twist.

 

Nine months later, they and many others celebrated the birth of their baby son, later known as John the Baptist.  Zechariah must have remembered the angel’s words about him and marvelled as he watched them come true.  People did indeed rejoice because of his birth, and he would indeed go on to point people to Jesus and His future ministry.  Holding baby John in his arms and praising God, Zechariah was able to acknowledge:  “The rising sun will come to us from heaven … to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

 

The God of hope filled Zechariah and Elizabeth with joy and peace as they trusted Him.  He wants to do the same for us today.

* * *

My thanks to Bonnie Gray for her OneWordAdvent. If you decide to participate in the linkup like I did, please tell me here in the comments.  I’d love to read your post.

31 Jesus-Benefits: Forever

Day 20 and I hope you’re enjoying taking a look at these Jesus-benefits. There are so many ways I could word this next one, but the simplest and best seems to be:

He’s forever.

Israel’s king, David, wrote in Psalm 27:10: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me.” God is utterly dependable and will never let us down. In one of the devotions in her book “A Year’s Journey with God” (which I’m reading at the moment and would heartily recommend), Jen Rees Larcombe writes about her 8 years in a wheelchair, and how she wasn’t healed until she learnt to put her hope not in the healing, but in Jesus. If we’re disappointed, it’s because we’ve put our hope in the wrong place.

“I am the LORD; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23).

* * *

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The Blessing of Easter

I was inspired by this week’s Tuesday at Ten prompt: BLESSED.

Bereft, He prayed at Gethsemane – His soul overwhelmed with sorrow. “If it’s possible, take this from Me!” but the choice had already been made; He knew it would happen when the time came.

Lamb-like, He was led away – His friends deserting Him. From the house of the high priest, He looked straight at the one who denied all knowledge of Him.

Ethereal, He confessed to being the Son of Man who would sit at the right hand of God. Robes were torn and His death decreed.

Suffering, He was spat upon. Cruelly they blindfolded Him and asked who struck the blow. They bloodied His head with a crown of thorns.

Selfless, He thought of others in His darkest hours – telling the women to weep for themselves; entrusting His mother to John’s care; forgiving a common criminal.

Easter and the sun was rising. An angel rolled away the stone. There lay the tomb, open for all to see, but He was not there; He had risen!

Deliverer, He went to His disciples. Gave the oil of gladness instead of a spirit of despair. Suddenly they weren’t locked away in fear; there was hope and newness. “My Lord and my God!” one cried, as Jesus stood before His eyes, and the one who denied – he dived from the boat and swam to shore. He was completely known, and completely restored.

This Jesus – do you love Him? Then follow Him.

Tuesday at Ten: Create

I saw Karen’s prompt this week on Facebook, so here’s something I haven’t done for a while – joined in with Tuesday at Ten:

Thank You that You create something out of nothing, You whose Spirit hovered over the waters, who saw a beginning when there was nothing to see.

You brought land and life, the routine of day and night, and even before it all, You chose me.

You sent Your Son to die on a cross, so many years before I was born, years before I wanted to be Yours.

And even as I live my life, You look down in love and You guide my steps, knowing what I think and feel.

You see the closed doors and the questioning, and You say: “I will make the valley of trouble a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15).

Creator-God, You’ve never stopped creating. Your hope is always there in our trouble, so make us more aware; more thankful; more loving towards the One who offers us so much.

This is my Last Day

Over the weekend, I’ve had so many things knocking on the door of my heart. At church yesterday, my pastor talked about Psalm 43 – how loss of hope and isolation were wrong roads to go down. I felt I was losing hope in certain areas of my life, E.G. I have a friend who’s mentally ill; another friend who’s battling, and oftentimes the opponent wins.

I saw a status on Facebook about someone’s 24-year-old husband who died suddenly. He’d just graduated, had a job at the Bible-college and his whole life in front of him. 24! Here I was at 34, feeling like I didn’t have much to offer, and I was alive. He was 24 with a wife, a job and prospects, and his life was abruptly taken from him. God seemed cruel.

In the afternoon, I listened to a podcast. The episode was called “Are you Broken”. In it Jarrod Cooper urged us to have seasons of brokenness, but not to make those seasons our identity – not to live in them our whole lives.

Whilst reading Dawn Camp’s “The Beauty of Grace” ready to review it later this week, I came across an entry about someone who’d had a chaotic time with a trip to an emergency room, a funeral, and Christmas. A jar of strawberry jam fell out of her fridge, and as she eyed the red stickiness and shards of glass, she was reminded of the dawn of redeeming grace – Jesus coming into the mess of our lives.

A friend had invited me to a Bible-study today. One of the questions asked us to think about writing a song: ‘This is my last day’. All these things I was processing from the weekend seemed suddenly to come together about half an hour before I left the house:
This is my last day, this is goodbye
To a time of brokenness;
Though I may feel weak, it’s not my identity –
I don’t want to live there.

I wanna wake up and say
That this is a good day;
I’m putting my hope there in the Lord:
I will trust Him to hide
Every piece of my life
In His redeeming grace
.

This is my last day, this is goodbye
To a time of selfishness;
There is injustice, and there is suffering,
But I will choose to see the best.

Chorus

Why must I go on mourning?
Why is my soul so downcast?
I will yet praise You, Lord.

Chorus

Good Life-Motto

Status

“Don’t envy sinners, but always respect the Lord.  Then you will have hope for the future, and your wishes will come true” (Proverbs 23:17-18).

 

It can be so easy to envy people whose choices haven’t been God-honouring, and yet their lives seem full and happy, but here God gives us the alternative.  Great verses; I want to remember these and live them.

5-Minute Friday: Red

Oh yes, it’s 5-minute Friday time again – a time to write for 5 minutes without worrying whether it’s just right, and this week’s theme is ‘Red’, so why not go to Lisa-Jo’s blog and join in for yourself?  And don’t forget to visit the blogger whose post’s before yours and leave them some encouragement:

* * *

Dresses and strawberries and people wearing plastic noses, wanting to do others good.

A feel-good colour.

The cord that hung out through the window to rescue Rahab and her family.

Red is for rescue:  Because Jesus died on the cross, and His blood was poured out for us.  That wouldn’t make you feel good unless you knew the end of the story.  But when you know the end, when you know He’s won and it’s finished and He’s praying for you and cheering you on, doesn’t that make you feel great?

Thank You for the blood; thank You for brightness.  My bright future.  Sometimes the clouds of life hide it from view, but it’s there.  Help me to break through the clouds and take hold of it.