My friend Matthew wrote the following as a foreword to this year’s Advent/Christmas devotional booklet. A great Christmas message! Enjoy!
As I sit back and dwell on this fast approaching season of Advent and Christmas, I have plenty to be thankful for: I have a roof over my head, food on my table, a family that loves me unconditionally, and friends that support me in all aspects of my life. As we retell the story of the walk to Bethlehem through the coming weeks, I’m able to look at the walk I’ve taken in my short 25 years on this earth. I examine the struggles, the successes, the times when I felt lost, and the times when I felt invincible (“confidently stupid” probably better describes this feeling).
More often than not, during my twenties, I’ve found myself looking for divine purpose. There was the time, for example, when I left college wondering, “What in the world am I gonna do now?” I struggled emotionally for months as I went to interview after interview, hoping that I would find the right fit for my skills and my personal goals. That compounded with the other decisions I wasn’t prepared to make—like which insurance plan to choose and how to set up for retirement. And then having to answer to my mom for why I was so picky with women and when she could expect grandkids… These made for some stressful times! A little chat with God was the only thing that kept me grounded.
A particular story I think about from time to time is one that involves some early childhood Christmases of mine. On February 20, 1996, I was given the gift of a baby brother, a gift I could’ve given back a few times during our teen years (just kidding). Anyway, as Anthony was growing up, it seemed as if he was on a schedule for getting sick. Like clockwork, every Christmas and birthday until he was about 4, we would have to take him to the hospital for pneumonia. Sometimes it would be on the day of Christmas, but on this occasion it was a couple days before. As I was probably 5 or 6, my parents sent me to stay with my grandparents, who only lived—and still do—about a mile and a half from our house.
Although I’m sure my brother’s health was somewhere on my mind, my biggest concern was how in the world Santa was gonna find me if I wasn’t at home! I mean, why would Santa leave gifts at an empty house? So, as Christmas approached, I started to stress a little bit. I went to bed on Christmas Eve with many unanswered questions. But they were all soon to be answered: I woke up Christmas morning, walked to the living room of my grandparents’ house and found a single leaf of paper written in a style very similar to my granddaddy’s handwriting. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like this:
I know things have been pretty busy around your house, but know I haven’t forgotten about you. I left all your gifts at your house, and they will be there for you when you get there. Thanks for being a good boy!
I’m sure I totally butchered the letter, but you get the idea. Later that day, my dad came and picked me up. We went by the house to see if the old bearded man was telling the truth. We pulled up to what I will always remember as my favorite childhood Christmas gift. There was a big red go-kart sitting in our front yard, with a helmet lying on the front seat. Needless to say I was ecstatic. So for the next couple hours, as all my fears and questions were thrown aside, I was Dale Earnhardt cruising the hard turns in the snow around my house. It turned out to be one of my most memorable Christmases.
I tell you all this because I feel like this story is a lot like our walk with God. I’ve often felt like I wasn’t good enough to get my life right with Christ—like I had created a standard for where I should be as a Christian, and unless I reached that standard, I felt unworthy to approach God with my problems. I was under the delusion that God couldn’t see me at my lowest points, and only after I got back on my feet would I be able to recommit my life to him.
This obviously is not the case. The God we serve is omnipresent; he knows every move we make before we could fathom making it. And in some cases it is in our lowest of lows where we can find the greatest victory. When we are at our most powerless, that is the perfect stage for God to show his mighty power—which is far greater than any earthly demons or struggles we might be facing.
As a result, I can imagine God’s letter to us this Christmas sounding a little like this:
Dear Child of Mine,
I know life can be tough sometimes, and it seems like all hope is lost. But please know that I haven’t forgotten about you. My Son was sent to Earth, and his blood was shed, for the sins of many. I left all your gifts at my house, and they will be waiting for you when you get here.
Let’s use this season, not only to heal our relationship with our heavenly Father, but also to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ in a deliberate way—so that all of us may find our many gifts waiting for us when we get home.
Merry Christmas and God’s Blessings!