By Deanna Cauthen
As I sit here, at the dining room table, in the quiet, early hours of a Wednesday morning, I look at the Christmas tree glowing in the darkness of the next room.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even want to put up a Christmas tree at this house. I wanted to wait and put it up at the new house that we’re purchasing, but my husband insisted that we do it here. He was afraid that in the hustle and bustle of trying to move and with the craziness of everything else that we have going on with our lives that we would “miss Christmas”.
There’s nothing like being in the middle of move and having your house torn down, especially during the Christmas holidays. According to my perfect plan, we should have already been moved in, unpacked and sitting in the den of the new house roasting chestnuts over an open fire (well, maybe not over an open fire because we’d be using the fireplace and definitely not chestnuts since I’m allergic to them, but you know what I mean). Instead, we are doing Christmas amongst a mountain of boxes that tower over us while we sit in the den–the OLD den.
A last minute oversight by the loan officer set off a flurry of emails between us, the real estate agent, the sellers, and the bank underwriters. In the end, it meant coming up with more money and this resulted in a change in closing dates, which at times, has left me feeling frantic and frazzled. Nothing has gone according to plan and the whole experience has been very unsettling.
And then I thought about the first Christmas with Mary and Joseph and how unsettled things must have been for them. Think about it for a minute, folks. Here was a young girl (I believe she was just a teenager at the time) pregnant with a child who was not her husband’s, traveling across several miles on a donkey, to another city to have a baby. When they finally reach Bethlehem, because of all the people in town for the census, the inns and other places to stay were completely full and there she was ready to give birth. How unsettling is that!
We all know the rest of the story. An innkeeper tells Joseph that they can use the nearby stable for lodging and it is there that Mary, amongst the animals, gives birth. There was no doctor, not even a midwife, to help Mary bring Jesus into the world. She had to lay down in the hay, where animals had been sleeping, and give birth to a baby on the ground. I dare say, that the sanitary conditions of a stable couldn’t have been the best, yet Mary and Joseph did what they had to do.
My point is this–sometimes the circumstances of a situation can make life more than a little hectic. The temptation, during these times, is to let our minds and hearts get caught up with all the bad stuff and forget the bigger picture. Again, I look at Mary and think about what might have been going through her mind as she packed up her belongings and prepared for the long trip that she and Joseph were about to take. She was leaving the comforts of her home and family to have a her baby in a far away city. In the days and moments leading up to her departure, she obviously chose to focus on something greater than her discomfort and any fears that she might have been experiencing. Otherwise, why on earth would she have agreed to go? She could have easily said, “Joseph I ain’t goin’ nowhere ‘til I have this baby!”
Sometimes our current situation feels chaotic and it doesn’t seem to make sense, just like it didn’t on that first Christmas with Mary and Joseph, but remember that God has a much bigger plan and that my story and your story doesn’t end with our present set of circumstances. Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart, I have conquered the world.”
So the word for you and for me today is, FOCUS. Focus on Jesus, not the baby-in-the-manger Jesus, but the risen, victorious Savior, Jesus. Focus on his love, his care, and on the fact that he is Emmanuel--God with us. This is what I have to keep telling myself as I struggle to get through the coming days. God is with me and promised that he would never leave me or forsake me. Even during the craziest of times.
And the same goes for you, too. I don’t know what you’re going through. Maybe it’s a move like us or maybe it’s a serious illness, a financial problem, or a painful divorce or some other kind of broken family relationship. I once heard a preacher say that Jesus doesn’t always calm the storm, but he will help us to get through it. So when the problems in your life are swirling around you like a mighty storm, and threatening to consume you, listen very carefully and you will be able to hear the voice of Jesus, saying, “Be still, and know that I am God”.
My prayer for myself and for you is that Jesus, The Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace would “guard our hearts and minds” even as we weather the storm to celebrate this Christmas season.