Sunday, January 25, 2009

Carolyn, for several months now, has been writing to pastors' wives under the theme "Morning by Morning." Here is one she sent just before Christmas:

Morning by Morning

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22, 23

He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to listen… –Isaiah 50:4

Small Signs of God’s Presence

“The Christmas tree is up and almost decorated—another twenty minutes, and we’re finished.”

When, a couple of days ago, I first read these words from a dear friend far away they seemed merely a bit of chatter. That’s when I first read them.

In our home this last month we have been going through a set of heavy family challenges, stacked on top of tiredness from some happy events and from living in the 70s. The day before my friend’s email came, David and I had discussed how to simplify Christmas, especially in the decoration department. And we haven’t had a tree for years since his shoulder surgery.

David, as most of you know, writes for Our Daily Bread and often get notes from his readers. That evening he had showed me one from a woman thanking him for an article. Here is part of what she wrote:

Now I am 85 and find myself faced with more burdens, decisions, and unsolvable problems than every before. As we grow older we need to be more free of all of the above because we are less able to cope. God does most things right but He flubbed that one!

I confess that this past week I could identify with this dear woman’s feelings, although I have articulated my thoughts to only a few. Including God! (As an another friend said “ I can lament with the best of them.” I know God wants me just as I am.) So putting up a Christmas tree was the last thing on my mind or heart in light of our circumstances at the moment.

But then I read again the letter and this sentence—The Christmas tree is up—and started thinking about my friend’s situation. She is also in her 80s and has been living with extreme physical challenges for a long, long time. One of her dear children has battled an aggressive, debilitating cancer for several years, one has recently gone through a nasty divorce. My friend is unable to travel to be with them in sorrowful or happy times, except in her prayers. She understands pain of all kinds. Her picture looking down at me from my bulletin board is one big smile. I have witnessed her pain and I have witnessed her joy.

At the juncture of her words—The Christmas tree is up— and my thoughts about her, the significance of what she was saying by putting up a tree dawned on me: the brightly lit tree was not just a decoration but a symbol Advent has begun. Christ was born because He understood my sorrow, my fears, even my doubts, and He came to be with me. Yes, to save me but also to enter into my suffering and yours. And to give us hope beyond these challenges we may not understand. This is something to light up my life, real good news. Joy to the world.

These five words were for me a small but real sign of God’s presence. God used them to change my outlook from lament to anticipation. Each day I plan to look for Him in ways big and small as I wait for Christmas and walk in my world.

And this year we are going to put up a Christmas tree!

With love because He came,


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