UNMET LONGINGS, HOPE AND CHRISTMASTIME

UNMET LONGINGS, HOPE AND CHRISTMASTIME

Most of us enter Christmastime with anticipation and dread, hope and jadedness, excitement and I’m-already-over-this.

Perhaps for most of us, it’s a blend of all of these and more. You may not be able to tell where one emotion ends and the other begins, or even why. I’m personally entering this season with some real gratefulness along with some unmet longings, and the holidays accentuate both for me. I imagine the same is true for you. While the Hallmark movies, nostalgic Christmas carols, and commercials that emphasize more stuff and romance and flawless families call forth in us an ache for more, I’m especially grateful for the way Luke begins his account of the very first Christmas.

The curtain opens on Zechariah and Elizabeth, a married and childless couple, who are longing to be parents. In a Jewish culture where having a son to carry on your family name and legacy was paramount, life hadn’t worked out the way Zechariah and Elizabeth had hoped. And we simply can’t miss that up to this point in their lives God had been silent for 400 years. No prophets, angels, signs, wonders—not a peep from heaven. It was with dashed hopes in the thick of God’s silence that Zechariah and Elizabeth move toward the very first Christmas. 

HURTING BUT FAITHFUL

“Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.” Luke 1:6-7

 It’s Elizabeth and Zechariah’s faithful obedience that makes the tiny conjunction but appear so starkly here, “But they had no children”. You can be following the commands of Jesus this Christmas season and seeking Him the best way you know how, and still there can be aches and gaps and even silence. You’re in good company with these two. My simple encouragement is to keep doing what Jesus has told you to do from His Word. Don’t complicate the way forward by turning to consumerism, numbing the pain with busyness or throwing your hands up when God seems quiet. He sees you, He knows your longings and even when He’s silent He’s moving. He had never forgotten Zechariah or Elizabeth for a single moment.

He sees you, He knows your longings and even when He’s silent He’s moving.Click To Tweet

DOUBTFUL BUT PRAYERFUL

“But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John’.” Luke 1:13

When the angel Gabrielle shattered the 400 years of silence, he did so by letting Zechariah know that his prayer had been heard. The impossibility of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s situation didn’t stop them from praying about it. The angel is almost certainly referencing all those prayers for a son that they had been praying for decades. What prayers have you given up praying? What or who have you stopped praying for because it’s been too long or too quiet? Follow the lead of these two and keep praying because God hears your prayers. Like Zechariah, even when you don’t feel it, keep serving in your houses of worship this season, expectant to encounter the Lord. He may show up in a way you least expect.

GLOBAL BUT PERSONAL

“The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:25

I have a lot of favorite Bible verses but this has to be one of my favorites of the favorites (plus, it has the word favor in it, so this works out splendidly.) The child that Elizabeth would give birth to, John the Baptist, was no doubt a gift to the world. He was appointed the forerunner of Christ who would prepare the people for the coming Savior. But notice what Elizabeth proclaims: He’s done this for me. Yes, John the Baptist would help prepare the world for the Messiah, but God is very good at doing global things while also intersecting the lives of individuals and blessing them along the way.

This Christmas while we should certainly turn our eyes to Christ and rejoice in what He has done for the world; don’t miss what He’s done for you.

This Christmas while we should certainly turn our eyes to Christ and rejoice in what He has done for the world; don’t miss what He’s done for you.Click To Tweet After years of longing, God removed Elizabeth’s disgrace and gave her a son who would be a joy and delight to his parents. He invited these two faithful yet flawed humans (Zechariah wasn’t able to speak for 9 months because of his unbelief at Gabriel’s promise) into His story and blessed them with the longing of their hearts. Most importantly, they were blessed by encountering their Savior (Lk 1:43).

No matter the ache, the years, the quietness, the Savior has come and I know He wants you to encounter Him this season. In the midst of our culture’s holiday ideals, hold fast to Him, choose obedience, commit to serving and worshiping with other believers, and who knows what the Lord might just do this Christmas for you. Encountering Him will be greater than any gift we can hope for.

 

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LOVING EACH OTHER ON SOCIAL MEDIA

LOVING EACH OTHER ON SOCIAL MEDIA

As we move into the Christmas season my hope is that we’ll find ways to bless one another on social media. Perhaps we can think of ways to use our voices to encourage and champion others, instead of merely looking for a platform for our opinions to be heard. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about recently. I hope they’ll be helpful for you.

IS THIS GOOD FOR SOCIAL MEDIA OR REAL LIFE?

It seems to me that the rise of social media has pushed people from a place of freedom of speech to duty of opinion. In other words, we’ve moved from the privilege of enjoying freedom of speech to being compelled to give our opinion on every matter, sometimes several times a day online. The sheer volume of opinions and re-sharing of opinions has led to pain and divisiveness. Just because we have an opinion on a public matter doesn’t mean it’s needful to share it publicly, and it doesn’t mean it builds up the body of Christ, not to mention those who are not yet followers of Jesus.

I speak often with friends and family and close church members about the issues of the day, policies, and politics. But I do it within the context of real life community. That said, I do believe there are especially well-informed believers who are poised and gifted to speak to public issues in a public format, and I’m very grateful for them. While there’s no formal way to know who is called or not called to this kind of public service, I think we would do really well to ask ourselves if we’re one of the called or if we simply feel compelled to be heard for the sake of getting our opinion out there. It’s helpful for me to ask myself: is my opinion about a certain matter something I should share on social media, or something that’s best discussed in real life community?

THE HOME BASE IS CHRIST AND HIS WORD

Growing up in a Bible church, I remember the distinct sense of having a home base whenever a doctrinal or political issue arose. In other words, if you weren’t sure where to land on a matter, you had your go-to people who would tell you what to think. I could always count on this Bible teacher or that author for the home-team opinion on just about any matter. Social media, among other things, has essentially blown that up. Take the most recent Supreme Court vote, or the last presidential election, or any recent hot topic, and you have all manner of Christ followers—good ones, solid ones—decisively falling on different sides of these issues.

While the once tried-and-true home base felt safe to me, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that in some respects it’s not there anymore. This means I have to dig into the Bible for myself, be more prayerful, and press into my local church with the people in my community. This replaces what used to be a comfortable and even lazy approach of just seeing what so-and-so-amazing-Bible-person thinks, and taking that as my stance. This is not to say I don’t look to trusted believers and leaders who wisely speak about current affairs from a Biblical perspective. I absolutely do. But at some point we have to dig in for ourselves, and never have I felt this more than I do right now.

THE DESIRE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS VS. MY PERSONAL AGENDA

As I consider some of the most controversial issues of the past few years, I often get the impression that our personal agendas, political aspirations, and general associations seem to be the driving force rather than a desire for righteousness. Regardless of what “side” a person is on, I’ve noticed the tendency to place ambitions and desires against what matters to the heart of Christ so as not to let what matters to Him “get in the way”. More subtly, I’ve seen the temptation to corral the truth down certain paths for personal desired outcomes. All of this is problematic in many ways, not the least of which is using the truth for our own gain. Or caring more about our gain even if our agendas and the truth happen to agree. Do you see how pride and selfishness can still be at the root?

I wonder how we as the Body of Christ might be able to promote peace and unity by caring more about loving others than our personal agendas, and remaining silent when adding another opinion to the pile only deepens the divide.

I wonder what would happen if we cared more about righteousness than ambition.Click To Tweet I wonder what would happen if we cared more about righteousness than ambition, trusted Jesus, His Word, and our local church as our ultimate home base instead of that one person in our “tribe”, and spoke (tweeted, posted, blogged) more sparingly about controversial issues and more liberally about uplifting truths. Maybe we would find something a little more like unity, and the world might just know us by our love.

 

This blog post originally appeared at lifewayvoices.com

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