Bible / Christianity / Family / Holidays / Memories

God with Us

It seems that I can’t find a spare second lately to sit down and collect my thoughts into a post, but I’m sitting myself down after a long night of last minute Christmas morning prep and I’m going arrange some midnight musings. My husband and son are sleeping soundly and the quiet is too tempting to pass up before I nod off to dreamland this Christmas Eve night.

This is the greatest time of year! I love the busyness (although I must admit I’m kind of ready for schedules to return back to somewhat normal) and the hustle and bustle. I love the cheer and festive lights and decorations. I love picking out gifts or making gifts for the people I love and anticipating how fun it will be to see them open what I’ve chosen. If you know me, you already know how much my love of Christmas abounds! All of that makes this a beautiful time of year, but the best part of Christmas is reveling in the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

I was reminded this past weekend of the state of Israel at the time Jesus was born. Israel was under the control of the Roman Empire and had been exiled and oppressed by other nations for quite awhile prior to Rome gaining power. Many of the Jews were living impoverished lives at this time and a decree had been sent out from Caesar Augustus for a census of the entire Roman Empire to be taken. The goal of the census was not only for Augustus to see how much his empire was growing, but also for tax purposes.

We can all imagine (probably to a very small extent) what living as a Jew in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus’ birth was like. The ruler of the empire believed himself to be a god and his followers extolled him as so. King Herod, appointed by Augustus, was a harsh ruler. Not only did Israel pay their tithes to the temple, they were also being very heavily taxed by Rome. The Jews had not lived in their homeland nor governed themselves for generations. Israel was not in a stable condition; they were in survival mode, a hopeless situation.

And then…good news:

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” –Matt. 1:23

This Savior, Messiah and Redeemer did not come in the expected way; his kingdom was not an earthly kingdom (John 18:36) like the people expected, which was, of course, difficult to swallow. His birth fulfilled ancient prophecies, yet many were perplexed at how he could be the Messiah when he didn’t come in the grandeur and pomp a likely king would.

When I think about the Jews at this time in history, I’m reminded of the many times in my life things haven’t turned out quite the way I’ve expected, which can be disconcerting to say the least. Each holiday, especially Christmas, brings me to a nostalgic and thoughtful place. I reminisce of childhood memories with my family, imagine what it would be like to get to hug my dad and talk with him for another day, and I think about the wonder of God sending a baby to this earth to redeem us.

I stand in awe of the love of God. Following Him does not mean my life is perfect; it never has been nor will it ever be, in this earthly life. I experience disappointments just like any other human alive; we live in a fallen world. But the overriding theme of my life is that through the day in and day out happenings of every day life — the good, the bad and the ugly — He has shown me how to trust Him because of His unending faithfulness. And the more I realize what He’s done for me and in my heart, the more it makes me want to encourage others.

Like Israel, you may have experienced surprise or even shock at the way certain things have occurred in your life. I would venture to guess that has happened more than once this year. I’d bet on it actually, for such is life, right? Regardless of your belief or disbelief in Him this Christmas Eve night (technically it’s Christmas day here in Texas!), God sent Jesus for you. Not just to save you and give you eternal life, but to give you abundant life here on earth and the power to reach out to others with hope.

Christmas is the greatest time of year to me because I’m celebrating everything good in my life! Apart from Jesus, it would be a dismal world I live in, that’s for sure. I’m going to bed tonight with such an overwhelming sense of joy and thankfulness for the greatest gift I’ve ever received. He truly is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Is. 9:6)

Merriest of Christmases from my family to yours! For you, I pray that 2013 is filled with a revelation and deeper understanding of our Savior’s love for you and all of humanity.

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