In our defense, we had the great idea to send a postcard this year, but found that with a limited word count came limited information. Okay, so we probably shouldn't have taken the Christ out of our Christmas card, but the idea was that you'd go to my blog and read this Christmas post that would make up for the lack of Christmas in our actual card. So, here are the elusive Christmas reflections you've been waiting for:
I've been thinking a lot about these two verses lately (italics mine):
"The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness..."
"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit"
In my over-familiarity with these verses, I've completely missed the significance of the locations where God shows up. The "wilderness" and the "stump" have been overshadowed by more hopeful lines like, the "word of God" and the "shoot coming forth." I prefer the hopeful, happy parts of those verses rather than the deadness of the wilderness and the stump. Do you ever do this? Skip the parts of the Bible that sound negative?
Stumps and wildernesses are desolate, lifeless places. They're so lifeless that I wouldn't even dare to hope for life there. But God dares. Oh, He dares. Out of the stump of Jesse--the dead, useless stump of Jesse's line--comes the unexpected shoot of Jesus, growing so strongly that it bears fruit. In the wilderness, a place dry and sucked of life, comes the Word of God. And while we were dead in our sins, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), offering eternal life.
It's not just a nice Bible-thought either. I've seen it played out in friends' lives recently. Seen inexplicable healing in circumstances that seem irreparably broken. Heard stories of hope in places that are saturated with despair. Witnessed life in the midst of deep, deep darkness. And I'm learning that these two truths exist simultaneously: Life is hard, dark, often hopeless, and disappointing AND God is good, sovereign, perfect, wise, and gracious. He is in the business of giving us the "treasures of darkness" (Isaiah 45:3), the greatest of which was the treasure found in a stable on a dark, unsuspecting night when angels lit up the sky for shepherds and Jesus entered the world wrapped in flesh.
This Christmas, I'm thankful for a God who dares to bring hope and life to given-up-on places and people. And hopefully, you haven't given up on me, even though our Christmas card was, admittedly, a bit un-Christmasy this year.