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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Presents or Presence?

I must have been 10 or 11. And I had one thing on my mind- the Magnavox jambox that was at the top of my Christmas wish list. I had to have it. Not only was it equipped with a double cassette player for dubbing tapes, it had a CD player. And every soon to be middle schooler needed a CD player.

A few days shy of Christmas, my mom traipsed off to the store, leaving me alone with a tree full of presents. Let's just say self-control was not a virtue I possessed as a kid. I frantically began shaking each package that remotely resembled a jambox, listening carefully to ensure I didn't choose the wrong one. After all, time was of the essence, and I didn't want to get busted!

I made my selection and gingerly pulled the tape off one side. I loosened the paper and scanned the brown cardboard box for evidence of its contents. And then I saw the only word I needed to see- Magnavox. I was elated! The jambox would soon be playing in my hot little hands. I re-wrapped the opened box in a flash and placed it perfectly under the Christmas tree.

I must say this story makes me giggle. But when I stop and reflect on a deeper level, it begs me to question whether I'm still anything like that 10 year-old girl. As a child, I'd sit for hours with Christmas sale flyers strewn around me, making my list and checking it twice.

My focus was always on the gifts and never on the Giver.

It saddens me to think how many Christmases I've squandered because of unfulfilled expectations, longing deeply for perfect gifts to make me happy. My husband thinks appliances qualify, and let's just say I'm not the vacuum cleaner type. I've shed many a disappointed tear on Christmas morning because the gifts I got never quite measured up. I admit I'm too often fixated on presents rather than His Presence.

How about you? Do you gravitate toward gifts or the Giver? Are you focused on presents or His presence?

This Christmas, let's rest in the presence of Jesus Christ. Let's rejoice that we've already received the perfect gift from our Heavenly Father. And let's remember it is only Jesus who will ever fulfill our expectations and satisfy our deepest longings. He was and is and will always be our only perfect gift.

As Oswald Chambers says, "Nothing can satisfy the need [in us] but that which created the need. This is the meaning of Redemption- it creates and it satisfies."

Thank you Lord Jesus for creating in us a void that only you can fulfill, and help us never to be satisfied with any present other than your presence.

Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him! Acts 17:26-28 The Message

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Immanuel- God With Us

Do you secretly harbor what I call life's greatest fear? You know, the fear you dread more than anything? You've mulled it over in your mind and tried to solve it every which way, hoping it'll never come to fruition because the outcome might be disastrous. Well, Sunday night me and my biggest fear had a head-on collision.

As my husband drove our family home from our church's Christmas production, he began to stare straight ahead. A sinking feeling entered the pit of my stomach. "Mark, are you okay?" I asked. No answer.

Immediately I knew. Mark was having a seizure. While driving.

Although he was unresponsive to my requests to stop the van, I was thankful he was able to follow the road as it wound uphill through our neighborhood. But as he turned into our cove, I knew I had a decision to make. Since he couldn't stop the van on his own, I knew I would have to do it or it would be stopped by the telephone pole or one of the houses at the end of our cul-de-sac.

I had no idea how I was going to accomplish this feat, but I knew the One who did. And so I cried out to Jesus. And I asked Him to help me do what I could not do alone.

By this time fear overcame my three children, and they exclaimed that they couldn't watch anymore. As the distance between our van and the telephone pole shortened, I reached across my husband's lap and yanked the lever that controlled his seat, pushing it backwards. I then got on my hands and knees and reached under the dash, hitting the brake with the palm of my right hand. I threw the van in park, praising God for His divine protection.

God allowed my fear to suffer a blow Sunday night instead of my family. And then He reminded me of the reason why He came over two thousand years ago. He is Immanuel- God with us (Matthew 1:23). He goes before me and is with me; He will never leave me or forsake me. He commands me not be afraid or discouraged (Deuteronomy 31:8).
What fear in your life are you facing this Christmas season that needs to be replaced with faith? I'm praying that you'll allow God to minister truth to your soul as He did to mine, and that your greatest fear will suffer a fatal blow once and for all.