As we turn the corner on 2019 and begin another new year, I find myself in a sober mood. It’s early on New Year’s Eve as I write, and fitting to reflect on the previous 12 months. The holidays have always been a time of happy reunions and celebrations for my crew and 2019 was no different. But for many it’s a profoundly difficult time.
It’s harvest time. We’re experiencing a very warm autumn here in Southeast PA. The leaves have finally started falling. The once green, full trees are now thinning and the landscape is starting to change. At about this time a few years ago I wrote my first blog for Study With Friends.
I’m learning to stop obsessing over the mistakes of my past, trusting the One who has already covered them.
God sent Moses with the command that Pharaoh “let my people go.” When Pharaoh refused, God brought ten plagues on the land of Egypt. Hebrews 11:28 refers to the tenth and worst plague, which was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt on the night of the very first Passover, “By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.” This refers to the instructions God gave the Israelites to sacrifice a spotless lamb (“without blemish”) and mark their doorposts with its blood. When the Lord’s “Destroyer” passed through the nation, He would “pass over” the households that showed the blood. The lamb’s blood saved the Israelites from the plague and spared the lives of their firstborn children.
Early each holiday season when the lights and ornaments are brought out from storage and we fill the house with festive decorations, we also bring out an old baby doll our girls used to play with. We swaddle the doll in a faded, worn receiving blanket, place it in a shoebox covered in brown paper with a shiny red bow, and slide it under our Christmas tree. It’s a simple representation of the gift of baby Jesus.
The brown paper box is meant to be a manger, so it’s also filled with “straw” made from ripped strips of yellow construction paper. Many of these strips of paper have statements written on them.
Recently after band practice I listened to our kids’ conversation on the car ride home. Although they are enthusiastically committed, they typically vent out their complaints: the repetition and monotony, harsh conditions, tough messages from teachers with high expectations, unclear directions, difficult personalities, evolving and unforeseen changes, lack of progress. As I listened it crossed my mind that they could actually be describing my faith walk. I’m committed but complaining about similar things, just plodding along, uncomfortable, frustrated, discouraged by the cares of this world. There are seasons where this is generally the norm more than the exception. God never promised we would live pain-free.