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Advent Shadows... Christmas JOY!

Friday, December 21, 2012

What if suffering isn’t a problem to solve, but a mystery to live?

Not all that long ago, my every Advent and Christmas resembled Sandy Hook in spirit. With and for those affected by the inexplicable tragedy, my heart struggles and I ponder and pray unceasingly....

"Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
When 20 beautiful children stormed through Heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy; they didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"This is heaven" declared a small boy. "We're spending Christmas at God's house".
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
But Jesus, their Saviour, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy, that only Heaven can bring
Those children all flew into the arms of their King.
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
One small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of Mom and Dad."
Then He looked down on Earth, at the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!
May this country be delivered from the hands of fools
"I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools! "
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"Come now my children let me show you around."
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.""

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

...From Ann Voscamp:
The Truth about Sandy Hook: Where is God when Bad Things Happen?

“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still....”

Sometimes God answers our questions with questions.

"Because God knows sometimes there is suffering beyond our knowing.

"When we want to know answers, God simply wants us to know Him.

"When we loudly question God’s culpability, God quietly questions our humility.

"When we can’t bottle our tears up anymore, God catches every one in His bottle. God’s catching every falling tear because He won’t let us fall apart.

"And the guy with the guitar leads: “You came down to find us, led us out of death, To You alone belongs the highest praise…”

"My voice catches. Got your bottle, Lord?

"His Truth catches me falling: There is no darkness so deep, that God’s arms are not deeper still, that we cannot raise our arms in highest praise.

"What if suffering isn’t a problem to solve, but a mystery to live?

"...Giving thanks is that: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God when Satan and all the world would sneer at us to recant....

"Can I just ask Him on a Sunday — Where were you, Lord, on Friday when those children… ?

And in the middle of Advent, Jesus who hung on a Tree on a Friday, He holds us heartbeat-close:

“Since the children have flesh and blood,
[I] too shared in their humanity –
so that by [my] death, [I] might break the power of him who holds the power of death—
that is, the devil—
and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
~Hebrews 2:14-15

When You’re Looking for a Christmas Miracle {Pt. 1}

The Christmas Miracle He will Not Withhold From You {Pt. 2}

when it’s hard to believe in miracles this Christmas {Pt. 3}

When You’d Like a Relationship Miracle this Christmas

More from Ann... the beginning of my Advent this year:

"I don't want a Christmas that you can buy.

I don't want a Christmas that you can make.

What I want is a Christmas that you can hold.

A Christmas that holds me, remakes me, revives me.

I want a Christmas that whispers - Jesus.

I want a Christmas that lives and breathes and moves in Jesus Christ.

I want for the God in the manger who makes Himself bread.

For the Saviour in swaddlings who makes Himself our robe of righteousness.

For the Christ who makes precisely what none of us can - Christmas.

"It is only Christ alone who can make Christmas.

So that's what we lay out under the tree, this Jesus Advent Devotional, this story that begins in the beginning, in Genesis, and sweeps across His Word and His-Story, that winds through some of the highlights the Old Testament, stories that keep murmuring it - He's coming, He's coming.

That when we'll bend the knee come December 25th, we've run our hands and hearts along the whole spanning epic story of the why and how and Who of this coming, from the Garden to Noah to Jonah to Ruth to David to Zechariah to Mary to Bethlehem...

And we'll feel the divine breaking into here and we see the light shattering dark and we'll find what we've looked hard for, everything we've ever yearned for -

Christ -

and we'll bend and we'll whisper - We have beheld and are held."

...Ask and ye shall receive...

The little vignette just above is the focal point of my Advent (Christmas eve I will replace this Mary with one kneeling and caring for her newborn baby!).

I am brought to my knees by the intimacy it conveys and by the tenderness and wonder it stirs in my soul. These little shaped lumps of porcelain live larger than life in my heart and mind's eye.

They wait... hope... wonder... wander... journey... stumble... rejoice... agonise...

Not a moment goes by that I don't turn and find my emotions met and matched in that simple juxtaposition of Joseph and Mary and Jesus among us, but not yet with us.

I have grown so much in this past month (this year, really), I can barely catch my breath... nor do I entirely recognise myself in the mirror. My body has changed, and more closely each day it resembles the woman I feel myself to be inside, yet my eyes have changed more. I simultaneously look and see differently... more... deeper... NOW... beyond.

Life isn't one bit less hectic or challenging... in fact in some ways it's more so (the Divine Miss O has had a hard month despite so many gains, and we are at long last - amid brutal deadlines and having to still live in today while we address the deficits created yesterday - in the final stages of putting our house/life to rights after the flood two years ago)... yet as the weight comes off my body (consistently, but still very slowly), somehow the spiritual clutter is also being stripped from my life. As I get leaner, I am able to live with a clarity I don't ever remember possessing... that somehow as I master my body and learn greater physical self-discipline, I also grow in spiritual strength.

I remember saying almost five years ago, "I suspect the weight and feeling out of control are related, so I'm looking forward to a greater sense of control in my life, generally, as my weight goes down.... Taking off the weight is the foundation for change in my life.... I will be the person God created me to be, not the person I've become for lack of faith in Him who lives in me!"

It's as though speaking these thoughts out loud has brought the truth into being. I no longer feel helpless in the face of my weight, and though it's still not 'easy' to eliminate this fat (both physically and spiritually), I find myself doing it with ease and peace and joy... no matter whatever else my day brings.

I truly hope that the near closing of this year (and no, I don't mean tonight at midnight... I fully expect to wake anew tomorrow with another day of possibilities before me) finds you in similar shoes.

There will forever be circumstances in life beyond our control, understanding and influence.

This doesn't mean, however, that we must submit to feeling/living fearful, helpless, and out of control in their midst.

Christmas comes each year to remind us.

Bask in it's fullness! Bask in the wonders of His love!

Though Ann is a very tough act to follow, here are a few of my own Christmas musings... from my heart to yours:

A Meek & Thankful Heart
(the soundtrack of my Advent & Christmas)

Magi of a Different Sort...
(the re-visited and continued journey to wellness)

Reflections On Christmas
(where hope and love spring eternal)

*A Mustard Seed Christmas*
(when the struggle seems too heavy and big for the tide of Advent to temper)

(planning for the New Year)

...and just one final word from Ann:

The Grateful Christmas Project: 7 Ways to have more Grateful Kids this Christmas

...Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me... and thee.

I'm wondering as I wander at the end of this third week of Advent... and I'm filled with gratitude for all the ways in which I am SO very blessed... in this world of sin, meek in the eyes of the world I may never really be, but I am ever more thankful!

Throughout this holiday season, and well into the New Year, for you I pray... may an all abiding peace fill your thoughts, rule in your dreams each night, and conquer all your fears. May God manifest himself in ways you have never before experienced. May your joys be fulfilled, your dreams be closer, and your cares be lifted. I pray that faith enters a new height in you, that your territory be enlarged, and that fulfillment is just one step closer.

I pray that you may find peace within and all around you. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content. May the presence of Christ settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

May God always and abundantly bless you, and those you love, in every way that you require. May he hold you gently in the palm of his hand in a very personal way, and may you rest in the fullness of his love, his grace, his strength, his wisdom, his rescue, his redemption, his healing, his inspiration, his restoration and his mercy as you require it! May you carry in your heart this coming Christmas season an extra special awareness of God's great love for you; and as Christ is born anew in your heart this Christmas, may you feel his sweet and gentle baby-fingered touch upon your life, and may you see his miracles all around you. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!

Merry Christmas, and a blessed and joyous New year, my Sparkling friends!

{{{{{{{{{ HUGS }}}}}}}}}

P.S. "Whenever Christmas begins to burden, it’s a sign that I’ve taken on something of the world and not of Christ." A.V.

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