A Baby Changes Everything

There’s my home… and it’s fall-pictures-169Christmas Day.  It seemed like it would never come, and it is here.  It is quiet… peaceful… calm.  The snow has been falling steadily for the past week, and it continues today outside my window.  I can see the chickadees and bluejays picking at the seeds in the fluffy whiteness, with a little red squirrel scampering beside them.  We opened all the presents this morning — Laney came running into my room at what seemed to be much too early an hour to announce that it was Christmas!  All my siblings slept around the tree last night, which is a tradition of ours.  So as soon as morning came, it was present time!  Wrapping paper all over the floor, the couch, the chairs; pillows on the ground, dogs rolling on the rugs, squeals and laughter over gifts.  But is this all Christmas is?

It’s the same question many other blogs are posing; so are many books, television hosts and churches.  Is this all there is?  And everyone answers:  “No!  Of course not!”  That’s the right answer, see.  But then, if Christmas isn’t about the gifts and fun times, what IS it about?  Some say family.  “We’re close together, having quality time.”  But how many destroyed families attempt to cover the pain with a shallow gathering of bitter people: hurt women, unhappy men, and unloved children?  They say Christmas is about family, but for many, there is no ‘family’ at all. 

Some say it is about cheer and ‘goodwill’.  Yet good deeds and happy faces don’t cover a whole year for you.  December can’t be the only month we choose to have ‘goodwill toward men’.  Christmas is over, a new year begins… resolutions are made, often to be broken.  Christmas is not about ‘goodwill’.

Is Christmas about peace?  For many, peace is not to be grasped.  Peace is ever evasive; ever sought and never found.  To feel peace — contentment, ease, no worry, no pain — is unbeknownst to so many people.  They print it on their Christmas cards (along with goodwill to men) without understanding or ever experiencing it themselves.  It’s just a word… like so many other phrases associated with Christmas.

For our culture, Christmas is hollow.  It is empty.  It is the shell of something they never actually have experienced or known.  It is a name and an idea that they view through a glass; gazing at the Norman Rockwell Christmas they long for, wishing their family was that ‘functional’, they had that goodwill, and that they felt that peace.  Just as they window shop for the gifts they buy, they window shop ‘what Christmas is all about’.  Always seeking, but never buying into the message, hope and promise of Christmas. 

I know what Christmas is all about.  I know.  It’s about a life… a birth.  It’s not about us and our presents to each other, or our families, or our good feelings and peaceful pretentions.  Christmas is the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s gift of Himself for all mankind.  Because I believe and accept this — because I know in my heart of hearts that this is true — Christmas gives me my family, together, not disjointed.  Because He was born and I love Him I DO have goodwill toward mankind… but only because He gives it.  Because of His love and grace I DO have peace, for He is still with me, not just in Bethlehem.  The world makes a cheap imitation of what I and every other Christian has. 

Because of Him, my Christmas is beautiful.  Because I accept the Child of Bethlehem as my Savior, my life is different, not only my Christmas.  That’s how a Baby changes everything.

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Keep A Quiet Heart

There is nothing I love better than morning.  All is still, all is calm, and above the trees across the eastern pasture the sun begins to shoot brilliant golden rays into the sky.  It gleams on the dewy backs of the horses as they graze and glimmers on the blossoms of the cranberry tree.  On days like these I like to go out on the front porch with a cup of tea and watch the sun rise.  It’s a view I never tire of beholding. 

What does a sunrise signify?  To me it is a sign of peace.  It is a beautiful recognition of the new day — a new start. It is silence and song.  It is wistful and wild.  It is trust, it is faith… it is peace.  Because peace is all those things.  It is the silence of the world when the soul is in song; it is the wistfulness of wishes and wildness of dreams; it is trust in One who holds our hearts and faith that He will direct us where to go. 

Peace is not a feeling, which is something I wish I had learned long ago.  Peace is the acknowledgment that God is in control.  It is the product of trust in Christ.  Just as you can’t force the sun to come up any sooner than it does, so you cannot force yourself to have peace. Jesus said:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (Jn. 14:27)

Peace is a reflection of a heart trusting in the Lord; a lack of peace is a sign that one is carrying her burdens alone, refusing to cast them on the one who is strong enough to bear them.  True happiness and joy is found when you are free from the cares of life because you have given them to God, because in exchange for our burdens, He gives us His peace.

I am currently reading Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot.  And that is what we need to do today and every day — and here in the morning, although it is raining and the sun can’t be seen, I know that the Son is still behind every cloud… and I can keep a quiet heart.