My Christmas decorations will come down this week.
According to my liturgical calendar, we’re still in the season of Christmas, specifically the season of Epiphany which celebrates “the manifestation of Christ” in the flesh. Epiphany doesn’t end until January 14, when we enter eight weeks of Ordinary time — the quiet season between Christmas and Lent.
So it’s still Christmas, right?
The truth is that, while the tree DOES need to come down and the meager decorations I took time to pull out this season SHOULD be packed away, I’m not done celebrating. Christmas is a season of miracles and we’ve been blessed to witness one this holiday season.
Eight weeks ago, we drove three hours in the middle of the night to an emergency room in Chicago where our oldest son was fighting for his life. The emergency room doctor gave him a 50/50 chance to make it. So far, he’s beating the odds. In these eight weeks, we’ve seen God at work all over the place. In hospital rooms, doctors’ waiting rooms and, yes, in emergency rooms. The miracle is still unfolding and I’m tracking the many ways Jesus has touched us and our son during this season.
Though my house is in disarray and my “to do” list keeps growing, I might just keep the glow of Christmas in our home for another week. The time is coming to embrace the ordinary and to anticipate the second half of the story that is God’s gift to us in the flesh — Christ’s resurrection. But for now, I’m sitting in the glory of the Epiphany, of Christ in the flesh, just a little longer.
Speaking of epiphany, I had one recently: There’s nothing I can do to out-love God. He holds the trump card when it comes to loving me with an active, tangible, vital love that I can never reciprocate. You say that’s not news to you? Oh, I’ve nodded my head over that statement myself more than once, but I don’t think I really let it sink into my bones.
There is nothing I can do to out-love God because God IS love. And I am not. I am a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend. I care a lot and I give a lot. I’ll knit you a hat or send you a book. I can hold your hand, stroke your brow, paint you a picture or write you a story. But even in all that, I am not LOVE, at least not the way God is love, because even in my most profound sacrifice or heart-felt gesture, I can’t give you the one thing God can — an eternity that begins right now.
The best I can do is to scoop up the love God gives to me and offer it to you.
John the Apostle says this: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (I John 4:7-12)
If I’m to believe John (and I do) my best role in completing the whole love cycle is to dig deep into the love that dwells in me through the Holy Spirit and spread it all over others in my life.
Which leads me to my one word for 2019: ABIDE
Again, John puts flesh on an abstraction with these words.
“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.” I John 2:24
I favor this interpretation from Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson: “Abiding in Christ means allowing his words to fill our minds, affect our wills, and transform our affections.”
I have no idea what trajectory my life will take in 2019. Do any of us? The one certainty I carry into this new year is that if I abide in Christ, if I read his words and let them sink into my flesh, I’ll feel the strength of his presence wherever life takes me.
Even into a hospital emergency room in Chicago.
What’s on your reading stack in this first week of the new year? It’s my intention to begin a reading log in 2019, taking a cue from Modern Mrs. Darcy. I’m challenging myself to add to my stack books I might not normally choose. For now, these are in the line-up. I’ll add Leif Enger’s new fiction Virgil Wander to the list when it arrives at my local library. I welcome any and all recommendations!
One last thing. I’ve already finished a book in the new year that I began while in various waiting rooms over the past few weeks: The Ministry of Ordinary Spaces: Waking Up To God’s Goodness Around You by Shannan Martin. Shannan, a fellow Hoosier who lives just one county over from me here in northeast Indiana, shows us how living real life with the real people around us could just be our most important calling as a follower of Christ. Shannan’s wit and gritty humor make me want to invite a few neighbors over for frozen pizza. She certainly challenges me to open my heart and eyes to the simple beauty of building relationships in my own corner of the world. Highly recommended!