Christmas in My Heart

My thoughts and feelings days before Christmas are a rhythm of struggles, hard prayers and deep ponderings  on the meaning of all these things we do during this season, and also a flurry of birthday celebrations at home. There is this sadness that hovers over my soul that I can’t quite understand where it’s coming from. Maybe it’s a blend of all the unanswered prayers and unfulfilled dreams that I’m nursing in my heart. Whatever it is, I trudge through the days before Christmas meditatively. I listen to praise and I find that there’s a need to lock my eyes and mind on the lyrics for them to sink in and reach deep into that space where there’s a need for sanctification and revival.

Practice drawing from two years ago.

Practice painting from two years ago.

I cannot decide whether to be fully joyful because ’tis the season or to be part sad and part celebratory. The primary feeling is like trudging through thick mud and every step is heavy and hard. I know that while most people around the world are in the thick (and thrill!) of Christmas preparations, there are also those who do not know how to live through it without feeling unhappy, depressed, exhausted, and envious and coveting (realities of life!)

But this thing I affirmed to the Lord: I still have hope, faith, and a prayer. And I begged for help, help in every area that I need it. Help in thinking and feeling right, for starters.

I realized that there is great internal conflict when we believe we are ready to move on – from trials and miseries, sickness and suffering – and start afresh and live healed and free, but God is not. When we have had enough of the hardships and self-pity and living less than the life promised by the Lord, and yet, that fervently-prayed-for dream stays out of reach – it is a burden that is hard to bear.

It becomes a struggle between not relinquishing faith and hope and giving in to defeat. It is a hard and bitter struggle.

Have faith in God. This reminder from the Lord Jesus sometimes dangles over the skirmishes between fear and faith, weakness and strength. And though I am counting 14 years behind me that I have had unwavering faith and relentless prayers for my healing, I still ask it to this day and as fervently, if not more.

Maybe there is a need to not count the years or months that we have not been answered. Maybe it would be better if we stopped counting the years of unanswered prayers and instead, count the years that God saw us through. Maybe the Apostle Paul’s advice to forget those things which are behind [our old life] and reaching forward to those things which are ahead can also be applied to the things in the past where we had been tried and tested again and again.

Yes, and to believe that everyday is a new opportunity to renew our faith and to approach the throne of grace and mercy with confidence. That every day can be a day of new beginnings and fresh starts and for that long-awaited miracle.

That is what Christmas brings us: a new hope, a new believing. The tidings of great joy and peace and goodwill to all men that should not lose their promise and power and fulfilment. It is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ after all (or the remembrance of it).

What we need this Christmas (and all the days of the year for that matter) is not more of our desires and the world. We need more of Christ – His presence. His powerful presence that can transform us. We don’t know it yet, but maybe in our transformation or re-transformation, we can find our healing.

Maybe we have focused so much more on ourselves and our needs (I know I have) than on our devotion to Him. Maybe our adoration of Him has been watered down by the trials we’ve had to go through. But everyday (and not only on Christmas) is an opportunity to deepen our devotion to Him, to make our service to Him real and rich.


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Christmas Meditations

As I spend the days horizontal this Christmas season (sick again but fully expecting a miracle to happen), the way to the manger comes to mind over and over again. Eyes tightly closed and nothing to think of but God’s great mercy, I find my way there as clear as noonday, although my visits are at midnight. Yes, the night the Savior was born, of course, and guided by the bright, shining star. That’s why I can see my way clearly.

Isn’t that the main reason why He was born in the first place? To bring light in darkness.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:9 NIV)

So, I enter the barn and find the manger covered with hay. Baby Jesus sleeps quietly amidst lowing cows and bleating sheep, His cheering team before the shepherds arrive and  the three Magi. The barn stinks, but Mary’s smile can’t be wiped out. It emanates from her grateful soul.

And I, I find so much peace in the scene. I learn a lot about the character of the Savior – peacefulness, simplicity, humility, beauty — glory! Glory surrounds Him even without the glitz and glamour we put into our Christmases.

That’s what I want to remember now.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14)

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The Gift of Christmas

On Christmas Eve, even before the clock struck 12 (and even with the kids’ tummies growling, eyelids drooping, and moods turning cranky for waiting long for the time), we opened our Bible and read about the birth of Jesus. For there was a need to remember WHO we were celebrating and WHY. Kids can’t think past the opening of gifts, but there is a need to open the greatest gift to all mankind and to understand that, truly, there is nothing that can surpass it. We all need this gift (for even though most people celebrate this season, not all have fully realized the impact and meaning of it).

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

I want to play and re-play that scene when the angel descended from heaven and greeted the shepherds keeping sheep late at night. Like the shepherds, I wanted to be fully awake to receive the gift of “good tidings and great joy”, to be caught up in that glorious moment when God clothed Himself in human flesh and came to dwell among us. For this Gift is for all people, there is no exception, as long as you prepare your heart to receive it.

On Christmas morning, I meditated on these things: how the Lord has come to bring salvation to a world that was bound for destruction. Because He so loved. Even before I opened my eyes, my mind, heart and soul needed to take hold of the Gift that it’s real and it’s mine forever (for mornings could bring you the blues). I thank the Lord Jesus Christ that He came. Now I can stand up against the enemy’s attempts to scare me. The Gift of God lives in me and I am held.

Because of Him, I have endless mornings. And with each is His compassion that never fails.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Have life more abundantly. That is the gift of Christmas. What would you do with lots of wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree if they don’t include the gifts from on high: salvation, love, joy, peace, hope? What is the purpose of Christmas if after the revelry, you are back to your zombie-like living? For the gift of Christmas is one that throbs of authentic life in Christ! A life that doesn’t feed on worldly things but on the Spirit of God! To have power to live an authentic life, a life that follows closely after the Lord’s own heart, is what Christmas brings.

I pray that the world will come to know this truth.

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When What You Really Want for Christmas is Christ

Saturday, our household was in a flurry as everyone looked for the missing hurricane glasses (see picture below). The maids said they had emptied out the whole cabinet where the Christmas decors were kept. No hurricane glasses. Toward the afternoon, I was beginning to resign myself that they were gone forever. Hannah and I toyed on a theory: Maybe the past maids broke them while we were away on New Year’s Day and dumped them in the garbage. Ugh! It hurt just to think about it. I liked those hurricane glasses from DaySpring and I had used them only once.

Tim left for the mall with his Dad. I settled to take a nap and before sleep set in, I thought on these.

The first week of December is gone and yet, we’re not done decorating. A few wreaths have not yet been hung; candles are not put in their places; poinsettia plants have not been bought. And the hurricane glasses cannot be found. The top of the piano will be bare this year. Well, come to think of it — it doesn’t really matter. The decorating can be left half-finished and who cares? Well, we do care because we look at our neighbors and how they have completed their decors inside and out and last month yet! But wait, if I don’t consider other people’s actions, I wouldn’t really care if our decors are not perfect. Why do I keep doing things which are an effect of what other people do? And why do we get ourselves so stressed up during this season? Not to mention the menu planning for Christmas Eve dinner (noche buena for the Philippines), the shopping, gift-wrapping, kids’  Christmas parties in school, etc.

I feel weary just by thinking about it. But this time, I will not force myself to get up and finish all the decorating (for the new maids don’t know where to put what). This time, I will not focus myself on perfecting decorations, I want to think about only One. I want to pursue Him as I’ve done the whole year. Christmas is supposed to be a time to celebrate Jesus and what He means to us, but it has become so commercialized, so stylized that its wonder and solemnity have been diluted to something material.

Can I just meditate on Him and His goodness as I lie here resting in His love? Can I just have Christmas that is full of the glory of the Savior and not the glittering lights plugged to electricity? One friend wrote on FB, after putting up their Christmas tree and completing the decorations in early-November: “It’s good to be done early so you can enjoy it longer.” I believe that’s the general sentiment of the whole Christendom. But is it the WHAT that we should be enjoying? Is it not the WHO? The King in the manger and not our spruced-up surroundings?

At last, I drifted off to a much-needed nap.

When I woke up half an hour later, I saw Hannah walking to and fro in the garden. I waved at her and she looked at me funny. “I will tell her she looked like a ghost walking there”, I thought to myself. But when she opened the door of my room, she leaned on the wall and sobbed and sobbed. She had in her hand a towel she balled and wiped her tears with it which were falling copiously.

In-between sobs, she told me what happened. She slipped while holding the vaio; it fell to the floor and the screen was shattered beyond repair. She was so scared of her Dad learning about it. She had been waiting for me to wake up so she could tell me first. (She knows that I always serve as “cushion” to the impact of her Dad’s ire when she’s done something wrong). She explained that she was making personalized Christmas tags and designing decors to surprise me with and to try to comfort me with the loss of the hurricane glasses.

She was a picture of complete repentance. Mercy flooded my heart and I gathered her in my arms. I rocked her back and forth, whispering gently, “Shhh. You didn’t intend to do it. I will talk to your Dad about it, don’t you worry. When I’m done, I will call for you and you will hug him and say you’re sorry, okay?”

She felt so relieved and said, “Thank you, Mom.”

Mercy. This is what I have received from the Savior. I knew then how I am (we all are) indebted to the Lord Jesus Christ. My forgiveness, my salvation, my life, my reformation, my hope of eternity – I owe it all to Him. This is what He’s done. This is what I want to remember. This season of Christmas.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

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Journey with Jesus,