I look forward each year to these early evenings and cold nights of winter. In particular I like to walk in the dark, listen to some music and spend time with God. I think I like it so much because the darkness surrounds me and the world seems hidden for awhile. Sometimes the world needs to turn off! Anybody with me?
Often on these evening walks I contemplate the future, pray, and listen for what God might say. This year has been many things, much of which I find hard to describe, but it has been definitely the most full, challenging, and forming year of my life. I chose to begin University last fall and work towards my master’s degree. I came off work as a full-time pastor and jumped into full-time parenting. Now, for any dad this is a difficult task, for me this was climbing Everest. To make sure that I took advantage of every possible life change I also started the process of beginning a new church. In May, my wife Destiny and I flew to San Diego to get approved as church planters. Furthermore, Destiny transitioned to work as a full-time nurse. And lastly, we found out she was pregnant (on April 1, ironically!), which led to the birth of our fourth child Theo three weeks ago. All that to say… its been crazy, full, and often chaotic in our home.
So why bring this up? Because everyone reading this probably has their own crazy-year story. You got married or engaged. Maybe you went back to school or you started a new job. Maybe you bought your first home or had to leave yours due to unforeseen circumstances. Maybe you had child or didn’t and wish you could. Maybe you tried a brilliant new idea and succeeded or heartbreakingly failed. Maybe you wish life could be different and are going through the motions wishing hopelessly for something new. Maybe you learned a significant new skill or made a poor business decision that will set you back for years. I might not know all circumstances, but for some of you, this has been a BIG year!
And you know what? I hear you. All of you. All of IT. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned and sometimes they do. But for a moment I want to talk to those who have seen big failure in your life…. you’re not alone. Despite many big successes I’ve experienced my share of heartbreaking failure. In these moments of failure I notice that lies or negativity can slip into my self talk telling me that I am alone, helpless, failure or forgotten, but I’m not. And you’re not.
The story of Christmas isn’t simply another birth story or a mystical tale that supersedes Disney. No, the story of Jesus’ birth is richly multilayered; one of the most profound and important points is that “God is with us”. Jesus, also called Immanuel or “God with us”, was the assurance that humanity would no longer be left alone. God would be with his people forever. In the Bible, a book called Matthew bookends with this idea as Jesus words conclude the book with, “Surely I will be with you always” (NIV). This is a promise that God isn’t just in heaven unaware, disengaged, and apathetic to the proceedings of earth. Rather, Jesus’ coming to earth meant he would constantly be with those he’s chosen and loved, forever changing the way that God interacts with people on earth. We are no longer alone, hopeless, or helpless, but connected, hopeful and strong. The tides have changed and Christmas is a celebration of something new, something better. Each day I realize that God is with me I find hope, peace, and strength for the day. Jesus is hope. Jesus has come. Jesus is with us.
Tonight as I walked down the road, in the black of night, listening to music and praying, I wasn’t alone… Jesus was with me. My comfort in life is not in my successes or failures (and there are many of both of those). My comfort lies in knowing that I’m not alone. A Bible passage written long before Jesus came to earth reads, “the Lord (God) is near to all who call on him” (Psalm 145:18). So wherever you’re at know this… God is near if you call to him. So call. Talk to him. Ask him for help or peace or joy. In the busyness of this season take time to slow down and call on him.
God is near! Jesus has come.