2020 has brought a deepening desire for deliverance, for mercy, for our Emmanuel to come, to be present with His people. These words from a well known Advent hymn resonate:
“O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”
Weariness and darkness covered the world like a thick wool blanket. Humanity was pregnant with longing. After a long, arduous journey, Mary gave birth to her son Jesus in a crude barn.
The significance of that sacred night so long ago changes everything for mankind:
“Oh holy night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error, pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn’
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine; o night when Christ was born
O night divine, o night, o night divine…”
Jesus’ life was marked by a calling to do the will of His heavenly Father. Jesus walked on this dusty earth and came close to those who were marginalized. He met brokenness with hope and challenged religiosity. He suffered cruelty, abuse, and an unimaginable death to bear witness to our pain and to make redemption possible. We have eternal life through His death! When I reflect on this reality, my heart can know rest. In all that isn’t this year, Emmanuel is with His people.
As a young girl, there was anticipation and excitement that grew inside of me as we entered the Christmas season. Our school program, caroling for neighbors (complete with decadent treats, coffee, and hot chocolate), and family gatherings are a few of my favorite memories. I still treasure a glass heart my uncle gave me one year.
Christmas Eve was often the culmination of joy I held inside. We’d gather as a family in the living room. Candles would be burning, lights dimmed and Dad would read the Christmas story. We would then give and receive gifts. There were laughter and delight in the revelation of what had been given. Mom would also create a beautiful and luscious spread that was enjoyed by all. The appetizers were tasty (minus the interesting traditions my brothers attempted to establish!) There was always a plate of favorite treats: homemade peanut butter cups, chocolate fudge cookies, sugar cookies, date pinwheels, and peanut butter blossoms. Our tummies were full and hearts happy as we headed for bed.
Although the time with my family was delightful I still sensed a longing for something more. As a teen, I attended a late Christmas Eve service at a local Presbyterian church. The sacredness and beauty of this memorable night instilled hope inside my heart. I cried from deep within for the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, to come, to bring freedom, to bring the fullness of what I longed for.
Today I am still attuned to the angst within. I’m desperately in need of Emmanuel to be with me; He is my only hope. I’ve struggled to embrace joy this Christmas season. The fragility of my being, the reality that life is here and gone like the grass is sobering. Despite the unsettledness I’ve sensed, I’ve felt called to be intentional in creating simple Christmas joys, particularly with my son. In these everyday spaces, I’ve found beauty and hope that he will have meaningful memories to look back on. As I share these moments with him, I’m instilling in him the value of simplicity and the celebration of the gift of today. I love telling him the story of baby Jesus and why His coming changed everything. There will be days coming when it will be easy to miss what my heart knows. In these places I want to savor the joys and memories we’ve shared this Christmas season:
Gathering greenery and creating wreaths
Blessings on you this Christmas season. May you know the joy of Emmanuel. This knowledge will change your life.
Bio: I’m on a journey to find beauty in unlikely places, to see the sparkle in everyday simplicity. Life is a precious gift and I long to hold those I love with more tenderness and gratitude. I enjoy playing with words, on occasion. I also spend many hours in my tiny apartment kitchen revamping recipes and discovering the deliciousness of whole foods. I’m privileged to be Eric’s wife, he is my supporter and the one who is not afraid of my dreams. Caring for my energetic toddler keeps my days fast-paced and never dull. I’m called Jo by those who know me well.