I miss it so often, the sacredness of this season. Perhaps it is the greatest challenge for all of us at Christmas, to slow down. To heed the call that Christmas sings right along with those carols, to come and see the Babe. To put away the rush, the hectic, the strain, and to gaze at a Rescuer come to save us.
It is only when I slow down that I see the holiness of this season, the once-only perfection of it that none of us can replicate with strings of light or silvery wrapped gifts stacked perfectly under a tree. Though it comes once a year, this day was perfect only once.
The Jewish people held such expectancy, this promise first spoken thousands of years before. Hope so thick you could cut it right through with a knife. Palpable surety, salvation on its way.
Good arriving. Evil fleeting. God conquering. Souls resting. Peace residing. And still I rush around like a fool trying to make it more “special”?
I remember, on rare mornings like one recently, with snowflakes cascading outside of the windows, boys’ laughter bouncing off the sled hill in the back of Grandma’s house, coffee hot and candle flickering. He nudges, gently, allowing me the smallest taste of that expectancy, that thrill of hope.
Prophecies standing on the edge of fulfillment as a young virgin runs her hand over her swollen belly. I stare down and feel the kicks in my own, this baby unexpected, too. Full of life and hope. I feel Mary’s expectancy. Hope and goodness promised from a God who defines both. A God who does not change.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6a)
Did Mary see it? Laying in that ruddy stable and crying through labor pains next to her new husband?
Hope hovered over that manger. The world held its breath in expectancy. I wonder if we do today.
He never delays in His promises. His timing is never amiss. Not two thousand years ago, not this year, and not next year. I pray that we all hold on to that as we walk into the New Year. That we don’t let go of the hope of this manger, the surety that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
I hold onto that, on those slow mornings when I choose to see the snow, the smiles between rosy-cold cheeks, and the hope. I cling to the message of that manger, that He remains true to his promises. In this New Year coming, let us not let go, let us not lose sight. He is as faithful today as He was that lowly night when a young girl held the world’s Savior swaddled to her chest.
The same God of goodness and lovingkindness, the same God who would not let the world down in their expectancy, Immanuel. God with us. He is with us today, too.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
That night as Mary and Joseph stared down in wonder at their newborn son, I can only imagine that God stared down with the same wonder, and a twinge of heartache. He knew why that baby was there. He had sent Him, after all. And if He would send such a gift to us, the greatest and hardest gift, will He not also give us what we need today? He does.
Goodness and lovingkindness. Hope bundled in a swaddling cloth. Hope held in that baby’s beginning, and His earthly end. Hope. Not a hope for, but a blessed assurance. The sure thing found in the stable that night. The sure thing for all that we need today.
May we approach this new year as Mary approached that stable. Heart prepared for His will, humbled to follow His way, and expectant that He will do great things.