You Came!

Bethlehemstar

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come!  Luke 1:68

He didn’t leave us here alone. He came!

A long-awaited father returns from war. A surprise guest makes it in for a special performance. A far-away grandparent travels in for a holiday. You came!

When we were scheduled to deliver our first-born daughter, we had this romantic idea that we wanted to do the whole birthing process by ourselves. Our mothers had both come in town, but we had politely asked them to stay home until the baby had come and we were ready for guests.

We did pretty well- for a while. But then the baby went into to distress, and I was really struggling to push through to deliver her. The doctor told us we would need to do an emergency C-section. As a first-time mom, I was scared to death! I remember tears streaming down my cheeks as I laid there with all the tubes and monitors on me, contractions still coming, completely frightened. (I’m guessing my husband was as afraid as I was in that moment too). Then, by God’s moving alone (since this was before cell phones), the door to our room swung open, and my mom walked in. She and my mother-in-law had decided to sneak on down to the hospital against our wishes, but what a saving grace they were for both of us.

I remember the rush of emotions when my mom appeared. All my fears released, and so did a greater flow of tears. I was relieved that we didn’t have to do this alone. I was comforted by her presence. Oh, thank God, you came!

The angel told Joseph to name the son Mary would bear Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). He came as a Savior- on a rescue mission to save the people He loved from the pain and fear of their sins. He knew they couldn’t do it on their own- as much as they may have thought they could. For years, the people had tried. Then, “when the fullness of time appeared,” He came!

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus proclaimed prophecy from Isaiah, which put forth the true purpose of His coming.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  Luke 4:18-19

He came to preach good news to the poor. Good news brings hope. And hope pulls the hurting forward one small step at a time. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2).

He came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners. Imagine the cold, dark, lonely, harsh conditions of an ancient prison. Imagine many that exist today, where captives are held by religious and political conflict. And then imagine the rush of a rescue mission making it in to set the captive free. Scripture tells us we were enslaved to our sin, held captive by our shame and fears, our pride and our hurts. But then our Rescuer, the promised Redeemer, made it in to set us free. He came!

He came to proclaim recovery of sight for the blind. I’ve been blessed with good vision, but my middle-aged eyes are beginning to fail at close distances- and it is really quite frustrating. I can’t imagine the frustrations and fears of total blindness. As my reading glasses bring clarity, surely the recovery of sight for the blind brings immeasurable healing and freedom and direction. We were blind in our sin- and He came with recovery. I believe some of the best clarity He brings is a greater glimpse of all that He is as Redeemer, and Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

He came to release the oppressed. One of the dictionary definitions of “oppressed” is “to make someone feel sad or worried for a long period of time.” God’s people had surely been sad and worried for the long period of time when He was silent. It’s hard to hold on to hope when the waiting goes on and on, without an end in sight. But Jesus came to release that waiting and renew the hope. The souls of the released leap into their restored freedom.

The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings, and you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.  Malachi 4:2

He came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. The angel and the great company of the heavenly host proclaimed to the shepherds,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men, on whom His favor rests.  Luke 2:14

As I taught first graders this week, the word “favor” makes me think of “favorite.” The favor of God rests on us- His favorite children- because His Son has come to make us His own. He is due all the glory in heaven- and we are blessed with His peace here on earth. We are no longer under the curse of our sin, no longer slaves to our former selves, we have been set free in the year of the Lord’s favor.

This Christmas, may we be more aware of the lonely and dark, hurting place we were before Christ came into our lives. Not to further add shame but to greater realize the thrill of His coming.

I was alone. I was lost. I was restless to find peace on my own.

I was poor, blind and captive.  But then you came!

Oh, thank God, you came!

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Let Moms Receive Their King

CrownonGround           

It’s become almost embarrassing. The first three notes of the first Christmas song rolled out as Advent begins never fail to send me straight to tears. Big tears. Sometimes almost to a full-on sob. It’s that time of year again.

It’s those songs again.

It’s the celebration of the arrival of my Savior again. And that’s what makes me cry- and keep on crying. He came for us.

Each year it seems a different lyric will really get to me. Usually it’s in the lines of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”- as that one has so much rich theology in it. But this week, it came to me in “Joy to the World.”

Joy to the World- the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king

Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing

Let earth receive her king.

In that, I seemed to hear, let Lori receive her king.  What would it look like for me to truly receive my king? There are several dictionary definitions for “receive”- all which seem to apply.

  1. To assimilate through the mind or senses
  2. To permit to enter- to admit
  3. To accept as authoritative, true or accurate- to believe
  4. To welcome, to greet

How can I assimilate through my mind the King of kings? Will I give Him permission to enter my heart and have admittance into my life? Will I accept Him as authoritative and true- will I believe? Is my heart open to welcome and greet Him upon His arrival?

As busy moms, so often caught in the urgency of daily living, struggling just to get by, we can take these next few weeks to prepare to receive the King again into our lives. Reflect afresh on the radical coming of this Great King- His quiet invasion to redeem our broken world.

Receive His peace. Isaiah’s prophecy called Him “Prince of Peace.” And it went on to say, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7). With His reign, Jesus offers His people peace. Under His rule, we can find rest. He longs for us to cease struggling and battling on our own, and instead, receive His peace, letting Him wage the wars for us. As Mary held her infant Son, she knew His peace. The world in turmoil surrounded them, but she knew peace. We too can know that peace as we behold our Prince of Peace.

Receive His freedom. “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” (Luke 4:18) Jesus came to bring freedom, yet so many of us live in bondage. We live shackled to our fears and failures, our issues and insecurities. We hang out in the prison cells whose locks Christ opened long ago. Twila Paris sings the line “Even we who call His name so often miss the treasure.” Yes, we who call His name often miss the treasure of the freedom He was sent to proclaim. When we receive Him as King, we must also receive the fullness of the freedom He provides for His children. Daughters of the King, our shackles have been released.

Receive His reign. If He is the King of me, I have to consciously choose to place Him on the throne of my life every day. I have to choose to live under His authority, and give Him charge of my daily decisions and circumstances. As the dictionary definition says, it is a decision to “accept as authoritative, true and accurate, and to believe.” It is a decision that begins with believing that He is a capable King, and that He is a good King. We know He is capable because He is the Creator of all. He has the authority to protect and to provide for that which He made. And we know He is a good King. His purposes are always for His glory and my good (and my good is always to draw back to His glory). We know He is good because He sent His Only Son- “He so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” (John 3:16).

The line that follows after “Let earth receive her king” is a challenging one.

Let every heart prepare Him room.

How can I make room in my heart to receive the King? I think it starts with a good clearing out of pride- “I can do it by myself” and “I don’t need anyone to help me.” We need to clear out fear and trust this King with everything. And we need to clear out bitterness that often grows over time and settles into stay.

Will you receive your King this Christmas? Will you receive His peace and freedom? Will you give Him full reign over your life and the lives of your children?

To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12

As we receive Him, we are given the right to become His children.

We are daughters of the King.  Let heaven and nature sing!