Christmas is upon us, friends! Its joy continues to unspool in these 12 days of celebration, the magnitude of God-with-us sinking ever more deeply into our hearts and lives. Because it is a season so rich with wonder and meaning, I have chosen to reflect briefly on a few of its many themes.
Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God….
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.”
–1 Samuel 2: 1, 4-5
Christmas continues. It is not over on December 26th. Incarnation is too big a mystery to grasp in a single day. And so we have 12 glorious days to celebrate and ponder the mystery of God-with-us.
As Hannah (who, like Mary, knew what it was to give up a beloved son) sang in her song all those millennia ago, the world has turned upside down: the mighty are broken, the weak are strong, the hungry are sated, the full are starving, the lowly are exalted, the exalted are brought low.
But the world has not just turned upside down. It has turned inside out. God—God!—is now a human baby. In such a world, what else might be possible? What else might happen?
All Creation Sings
Praise the Lord, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Psalm 148 is creation’s song of praise to its Creator, to the God who created each thing that exists by His Word—the Word that has now become flesh in Jesus Christ.
What, I wonder, happened at the moment of incarnation? What gasp did all creation sharply inhale at the moment when the Word through whom and by whom and in whom they were all created took on flesh, became one of those He had made? What love, what immense love, is this that the eternal, infinite God should limit His eternity, should bind His infinity in human flesh?
No wonder the sun and moon and shining stars sing praise, the mountains and hills and trees, the wild beasts and cattle, the creeping things and winged birds, the kings and all peoples—young and old, men and women—indeed, the very rocks cry out in praise of such a God.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
Jeremiah’s words fill my heart with longing and with hope. They capture my imagination with the beauty and the joy of his vision. Christmas is the foretaste of this promise that God makes to His people. Like an hors d’oeuvre at an elegant meal, Christmas whets our appetites, letting us taste the smallest bite, and promising, There is more where this came from—and the more is even better than what you just tasted!
God-with-us is wonderful beyond words, but us-with-God—that will be thousands upon thousands of times richer! Now we see in a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face. Now we taste the goodness of the Lord, but then we will feast till we are brimful and running over, radiantly filled with all the fullness of God, as the waters fill the sea.
He has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Jesus is the one who gathers not just all people to Himself, but all things. He is the one who insists that His disciples “gather up the fragments that nothing may be lost” (John 6:12).
All those broken bits of ourselves that we have lost by the wayside of our lives—Jesus holds them. All our broken dreams that have shattered along the way, all the things we have ever loved and lost, all the broken pieces of our hearts, our lives, our loves—Jesus holds them.
Jesus gathers all things to Himself, picking them up as they fall, that nothing may be lost. In Him, we are whole, creation is whole, the cosmos is whole. Christmas is the season when we embrace the now of God’s promise of wholeness even as we struggle with the broken reality that we do not yet live in the fullness of time. But Jesus lives in the fullness of time, and He is holding all things, including us.
Epiphany: Follow That Star
Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’
On Epiphany (January 6) we remember the coming of the magi to see the child Jesus. These wise men saw the star and they left all they held familiar and dear to follow it, knowing it would lead them to something even better. And we are to be like them, willing to leave all we have to follow where Christ leads.
For most of us most of the time, following the star simply means paying attention to the people around us, our families, friends, neighbors. Yes, Epiphany calls us to move beyond the familiar, but sometimes, maybe even most of the time, the familiar is not geographical. It may be the familiarity of something we own and hold dear; the strained and fruitless ways we try to earn God’s grace; the soul-eroding habits that keep us from loving God and others as we ought; or a familiar pattern of relating or responding to others that Jesus is calling us to set aside that we might follow Him.
In these last few days of Christmas (and the first few days of a new year), ask God what familiar thing or habit or way of being you need to relinquish to enter more fully into the inside-out, praise-worthy, abundant, and upgathering love that God lavishes upon us in Christ Jesus.
In Circle of Seasons, after I discuss each season (in this case Christmas and Epiphany), is a section entitled “Living the Season.” As we walk these season together, which idea will you try—or have done before and will continue—this year? Share in the comments what nudges you felt as you read this post, the book, and what you are going to try as you live this season.
P.S. Amy here. I’ve made a conscious effort to choose books that are not expensive or are free so that you’ll have money to invest in your spiritual walk with God. If you don’t have it yet, please consider buying Kimberlee’s book.
This is the reading plan for January and February:
January 3rd: Kimberlee Conway Ireton and the Christmas section of Circle of Seasons.
January 10th: we start our January book Beautiful Battle by Mary DeMuth (about spiritual warfare). We will read one section each week. Only $3.99 on Kindle and Amazon. So, next week we dive into section one. This is a rich book you won’t want to miss.
February 7th: Kimberlee Conway Ireton continuing with Circle of Seasons.
February 14th, 21st, and 28th: Shiloh by Helena Sorensen and recommended by Elizabeth Trotter. Free on kindle! You can get the app and read on your computer or device.