Firstborns are special.
I say that not because I am a firstborn but because of how I felt when I held my first child.
I remember that nervous yet exhilarating feeling of having his tiny little body placed into my arms for the very first time. He was wrapped up tight in a blanket and I was undone. The depth of my love for him was so intense and so immediate; it took me by surprise. Suddenly, and almost without warning, I realized I would do anything for this child of mine. Not only had I given birth, but something had been birthed inside of me. A desire to love and protect this little life at any cost.
I imagine that Mary felt the same way. Although she didn’t have an adjustable bed and big fluffy pillows behind her as she drank in the first few hours of her son’s life, I can imagine she felt those same feelings of intense love and fierce devotion.
Parental love—and fear—is an authentic and tangible universal language.
I can’t help but wonder how Mary managed those fears as she watched her little boy mature into a young man. I wonder if she lost sleep worrying about him and his future. I wonder if she ever felt not enough at times, questioning whether she was equipped for the monumental task of motherhood. All of her time, energy and love poured out into this life that would ultimately lay itself down for us all.
The precious gift she had been given would eventually be a gift for all mankind. A gift of love, quite literally, as 1 John tells us that “God IS love.”
In our earthly understanding of love, one of our best representations is that between mother and child. It is bond so strong that it gives us a small glimpse into the immeasurable depth of love that God has for each of us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3 that he prays that we will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep that love is.
We serve a God who gives us small daily reminders of that love. From a child’s laugh to the warmth of a loved one’s hand, these are reflections of His love for us. As we gather this holiday season with family and friends may we sense, more deeply, the greatness of Christ’s love for us. May we catch another glimpse of the height and depth of His love and may it secure within us a sense of trust so we can walk in confidence of the love He has, not only for us, but also for the world.
A prayer: Father, we thank You today for the gift of Your Son. We thank You for the blessings You have given us in the form of our children. Father, continue to teach us more about Your love. Help us to walk in the love You have for us, and helps us give that same love to those around us. We acknowledge that our confidence comes from being secure in the immeasurable love You have for each of us.
It is probably the most well-known Bible verse of all time. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) The Message paraphrase says this, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”
I love this verse. I do. It’s the introduction to God’s love story for us all. It reveals God’s character and His plan. It’s inclusive, and teeming with love. But it’s the following verse, John 3:17, that reads like an exclamation point to me. “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help us, to put the world right again.” (MSG)
So many people go through life believing that God goes around pointing an accusing finger, shaking His head in disappointment and sighing at our shortcomings and failures. But it’s simply not true. His heart is to help, not to condemn. He sent His only Son into the world to set it right again…to set us right again.
He is our hope. Not just for life everlasting, but for life right now.
God’s hope is available to us whether we’re drowning in a sea of laundry or a sea of depression. We can experience true joy whether life seems relatively easy or we are walking through some of our darkest days. We can learn to trust His heart whether our circumstances make sense or not. We have hope for this life right now because Jesus didn’t just come to tell us how bad things are, but He came to help make things better.
Whether this season finds you thriving or just barely surviving, the truth remains the same. God is our hope and He came to mend things.
A prayer: Thank you, Father, that You alone are our hope. Whether we feel especially hopeful or not, You remain our constant. Help us truly believe that You are not in a continual state of disappointment with us, but rather that You delight in us. Psalm 149 reminds us that You delight in Your people and You crown the humble with victory. Father, today, crown us with your victory. As we humble ourselves before You, please mend broken hearts and fractured relationships. Thank you for coming to help. We look forward to the day when all will be set right by You forever. Amen.
Is there anything more exciting than the news of a baby being born?
As I am typing this, my sister-in-law is in labor. She’s having baby number three today. I have checked my phone every five minutes for the last hour just waiting for the call or text to announce her arrival. Although the days leading up to the delivery have been long and hard for her (chasing a three-year-old and one-and-a-half-year-old around the house while maneuvering a protruding belly and holding down a full-time job), I know that the minute the baby arrives she will gaze into that sweet face and everything else will melt away.
Why? Because babies are a celebration of life, love, and new beginnings. They signal a new chapter about to be written in the family’s story. They usher in a sense of awe, gratefulness, and hope. Babies are the culmination of creation, pointing us back to our ultimate Creator. There is something so perfect about a newborn. New life has a way of rallying us all together to celebrate, connecting our hearts and our lives in a powerfully unique way.
And so it was for the shepherds who found their way to baby Jesus all those years ago. The setting looked a bit different than our modern-day hospital rooms and birthing centers, but the palpable excitement that settled over that stable was undeniable. THIS good news, THIS new life, was not just for a few gathered around the manger, but was instead for all mankind, for all eternity. It was for you. For me. For every person that is yet to be.
Baby Jesus was the good news that would bring great joy for all the people! This baby wrapped up in swaddling clothes would usher in a thrill of hope like nothing the world had ever seen or heard before. I can’t help but believe that the shepherds, as they shared in the celebration, began to feel something give way: in their hearts, in their lives, in the very air that they were breathing. An expectancy, an anticipation, a feeling that somehow this was what they had been waiting for their entire lives. A feeling that something was about to shift and, with it, the potential to change not only their lives but also the lives of every generation to come. Our salvation, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
A prayer: Father, pervade our hearts with the same expectancy that the shepherds felt all those years ago. Fill us with a thrill of hope for all that YOu are and all that You have yet planned for us. Today we believe again for the dreams You have placed inside of us. God, help us learn to trust Your heart and to trust Your timing. Thank you Father, that You were then and You are still, our good news. Amen.
I still remember the Christmas when I received one of my favorite gifts ever as a child.
We had just finished opening presents and my brothers and sister and I were on clean up detail. First, we set to work gathering all our treasures into individual piles. All discarded plastic packaging went into a giant black garbage bag, but all the gift bags, ribbons, and bows (sometimes even wrapping paper if it was in decent shape) was salvaged for use again the following year. There were years when I would retrieve a gift from under the tree and spend the next several minutes trying to decipher whose it was. Usually, three or four different names had been written down in various ink colors and then crossed off. My mom got a lot of mileage out of her gift bags. Oddly enough, I married into a family that does this same thing.
We were almost done cleaning when my dad nonchalantly mentioned that Santa brought one more gift for me and it was waiting in the basement. I bolted down the stairs to discover my very own kitchen play set, complete with a sink, microwave, refrigerator, and oven. To this day I can remember the excitement I felt realizing my parents had given me the perfect gift.
Countless hours were spent downstairs, pretending to whip up delicious food, wash the dishes, and stock the fridge after grocery shopping. In fact, that kitchen set moved outside for an entire summer the year my siblings and I acted out the Boxcar Children books. Those were the days when parents would shove their children out the door in the morning and expect them to entertain themselves. There was usually the opportunity for re-entry sometime around noon for lunch, and then again at supper time. But for the most part, we spent that summer entertaining ourselves and pretending to live in a boxcar. I have so many wonderful memories connected to that play kitchen.
That Christmas I was given a great gift.
One of the greatest things about a good gift is that it’s given willingly and nothing is expected in return. My parents knew I was going to love that play kitchen and they wanted to give it to me without any payment on my part. There was nothing that I had to do on my end other than to accept it. Their desire was to give me a good gift simply because they loved me.
God does the same, only better.
He extends gifts like salvation, patience, peace, joy, wisdom, and comfort. He gives remarkable gifts to us because of His great love for us. We need only accept them.
Today, may we remember that although earthly gifts are good and can even hold wonderful memories for us, there is nothing that comes close to the gift of Jesus.
A prayer: Thank you, God, that you extend Your gift of salvation to us with no strings attached. Thank you that we don’t have to wonder whether the gift is for us. Your gift of salvation is clearly marked for each of us. You desire to give us good gifts simply because You love us. Thank you again for Your perfect gifts. Amen.