Christmas is over. The presents have been opened. The wrapping paper cleaned up and the gifts put away. The feast has been consumed and most of the goodies have disappeared. While Christmas is an amazing, awe-filled celebration and time of memory making and remembering, the post-Christmas season can be a bit of a letdown. After all the planning, anticipation, and eager expectation, post-Christmas can feel mundane, anti-climactic, and disappointing. While New Year’s is right around the corner, it does not carry the same joy, celebration, excitement, and magical moments that Christmas does.
The long awaited day is here. Christmas morning. A special time of celebration, reflection, and love. Gifts are exchanged and joy shared. Family is appreciated and celebrated, and memories are made. However, in the midst of the wrapping paper, delicious food, fun games, and family jokes, let’s not forget whose birthday we’re celebrating.
The world is full of a diverse array of people. We come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, have different styles and accents, use different lingo, and possess unique behavioral quirks. I am reminded by the diversity among humanity every time I stand in line at the grocery store or sit in an airport terminal. While we form groups based on preferences and similarities and judge each other based on our differences, fundamentally we are all the same. We are driven by the same desires and share the same needs, which is why we bump into different people at the grocery store in an airport security line. And most importantly, we were all created in the image of God.
Christmas is less than a week away! The time is flying by! As we continue on our Road to Christmas series with the list of unlikelys, today’s topic is probably the most unlikely of all. Unlikely places. The Christmas story is full of unusual details; however, considering it is the account of the arrival of the King of kings, some of the most unexpected parts are the places that significant events took place.
Traveling is a large part of modern Christmas celebrations. Families gather from far and wide to celebrate the season with loved ones. Adult sons and daughters journey with their families back to their childhood home and join the masses on their way to various locations for Christmas. In many ways, this bustle of travel activity harkens back to the very first Christmas, a Christmas marked by lots of traveling.
We love the manger scene and rosy pictures of Mary riding a donkey on the way to Bethlehem. It seems so idyllic and serene. But have you ever considered how stressful and chaotic that trip might have been for Joseph and Mary? They, along with the rest of the world, were on the move because of some unexpected government orders. Traveling to Bethlehem was not part of their five year plan, and especially not while Mary was expecting the Christ Child. However, God had different plans and used an unlikely government order to accomplish it.
Christmas is a rather magical time of year. The lights and festive décor truly add to the holiday spirit. Angels grace Christmas trees and stars are liberally scattered throughout. However, these traditional elements of our celebrations point to an even more magical time. A time in history when the chasm between heaven and earth became smaller and angels commonly appeared to men.
It truly is the most wonderful time of the year! Not because the decorations are beautiful, the music is cheerful, or the season is nostalgic, but because it’s a season during which we intentionally place Jesus at the forefront and focus upon Him. While the decorations and holiday cheer are fine and good, they should never be the focus. As Christians, we know the true meaning of Christmas and, therefore, ought to celebrate and focus our minds and hearts accordingly.
For this reason, I’ll be taking time this month to reflect and highlight different parts of the Christmas story. Over the past five years, I’ve looked at Christmas through the eyes of different members of the story. Mary’s wide-eyed wonder, Joseph’s steadfast gaze, Elizabeth’s joy, the shepherd’s fear, Bethlehem’s busyness, Simon’s amazement, and the magi’s worship. Each character has a unique perspective from which we gain greater insight into the miracle of Christmas.
Twenty-twenty has been a year of different. At first, so many had great expectations for this year and new decade. Twenty-twenty vision was the slogan many used to predict what this year would bring. While it may seem like this expectation never came about due to COVID-19, as we near the end of the year, I would have to argue the converse.
We have had one strange year; 2020 has not gone as anyone expected or dreamed it would. However, as we gather once again around this familiar holiday, there is still much we can be grateful for. In fact, the Bible encourages us and tells us that in the midst of difficult times is when we must count our blessings and bring to mind the faithfulness of God. Having a grateful heart in the middle of the trials and suffering in life is crucial to our spiritual health and continued growth during seasons of hardship.
Do you feel stuck in a holding pattern? Does every day feel the same and boring, without purpose, meaning, or life? Is the passion and fire of your faith starting to grow dim? This past year has been far from perfect, and many people are starting to experience fatigue. Fatigue from the daily grind of life, fatigue from the uncertainty surrounding us, fatigue from the pandemic, fatigue from face masks and social distancing, fatigue from isolation and loneliness, fatigue from doing daily life.
I hope you have enjoyed this mini-series and close look at the life of Deborah! Her story is amazing and her legacy lasting. Not only did the battle she led with Barak against the Canaanites bring peace for forty years, but her spiritual leadership brought spiritual renewal to the people of Israel. Furthermore, Deborah was unafraid of defying the status quo and following her God-given destiny. She was a fearless leader in a male dominant culture, and set an example of spiritual maturity in a spiritually dark and compromising generation.
Deborah, a prophetess and judge of Israel who was not afraid to lead in spiritual matters and hold the leaders of Israel accountable for what God had called them to do. However, Deborah was also willing to follow God into battle. She not only was willing to lead the people spiritually, but also to step out and physically stand with the people as they faced their battle with the enemy. Today we’re going to see how Deborah went from a prophetess and judge sitting under a palm tree to a warrior and victorious leader of Israel.
As we began to see last week, Deborah was a special woman with a special relationship with God. However, what made Deborah stand out was not that she had exclusive access to God, but that she took the time in a spiritually dark culture to pursue a relationship with the God of her forefathers. Now, we will see how that relationship with the Lord was used by God to redeem Israel from their oppressors.
Over the last couple weeks I have been studying the life of Deborah, the prophetess and judge. As one of the few female leaders in the Bible, her story and life is fascinating. And while we don’t have many details, God gives us enough information to make several important observations. So over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share some of the lessons I’ve gleaned from this mighty woman of God in a little mini-series called “Deborah: A Light in the Darkness.
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