Archives for the month of: December, 2013

Endings and beginnings matter

Other than changing the date on my checks, the new year won’t change much for me. Each day of life just seems to blend in to the next. Few events really mark watershed moments that change us. But when I “package” my life into bundles with artificial boundaries like the celebration of New Year’s Day, I am better able to see growth and change. 2013 brought some changes for me and my family. Some of those changes will affect how I face my future; others I will intentionally leave in my past. 2013 was very different from any year I’ve lived before and any year I will face in the future. And now it is almost gone.

There is much about the past that I miss, but my childhood is over. Family vacations then required little more from me than to figure out how to pass the time in the back seat; now the packing and planning are my responsibility. My brother and I used to play outside my grandma’s house until we were called in for family dinner; now strangers live in my grandma’s house, and he and I cook for our own families. One of the greatest delights of my life was watching my boys grow up; now they are men. I do miss much of what “used to be”, but I wouldn’t give up “what is” in order to go back. It would be dreadfully sad to be unable to live in the present.

Annual events like birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s give us the opportunity to measure time and life. These “artificial” boundaries give us better perspective on the choices we have made and how they impact the choices we need to make. Clinging to the past may leave us trapped in it. Refusing to let go of the past may leave our hands and hearts too full to take hold of our future. But we do need to be wise enough to take what we’ve learned in the past and use it to make better decisions for the future. Choosing joy in our new year may require that we intentionally leave regret and grudges in the past. Finding success in our new year may require that we learn from our mistakes.

Repetition of certain events, traditions or decorations often help us find comfort in our roots, but there seems to be a fine, ever changing line between repetition that brings us comfort and repetition that inhibits creativity and newness. Knowing when to let go and when to hang on is far more art than science, and only the most wise seem to be able to do it without regret.

One thing remains true. There is a new beginning wrapped up in every ending, and something must always end to provide a new beginning. Both are contained in the plots of our lives, and both must be handled intentionally. We are reminded of beginnings and endings at graduations and weddings and funerals. We try to capture them in pictures, and those events become the markers on our personal time lines. But we cannot just keep reliving them; we must move forward into what is next and new.

I am humbled and awed to see that God, not only understands this tension in us, but he has specifically identified himself as the God of all the beginnings and endings of our lives, and the beginning and ending of time itself. In his ceaseless effort to make himself known to us, one of the ways “I AM” defines himself is as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 1:8, 21:6 and 22:13 ), “The one who is, who was, and who is to come” and “the Beginning and the End”.

Wanting to hang on to what has been, and wanting to reach out for something new is a God given tension. God never intended for us to stay young and immature. Growth and maturity require endings and new beginnings. May the God who declared himself to be both Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, tenderly guide us from the old into the new.

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Empty

My family had a wonderful day yesterday. We ate and laughed. We found joy in each other’s company. We were reminded that we are loved and belong to the incredible gift of family. But yesterday is gone in all but our memory. My patio has a pile of wadded up wrapping paper and dilapidated boxes this morning. Each box used to contain a gift that was given to bring joy and reminder of love. While the paper and boxes are piled on the patio, the gifts they contained are now in drawers and closets, on nightstands and desks. They will be used and worn in ways that provide utility and comfort. And they are evidence that our family celebrated each other yesterday.

When they were wrapped under the tree, those boxes gave beauty to the room, and created anticipation of what was to come on Christmas morning. The boxes contained the gifts, but the value of what was in the boxes will be determined by what we do with the gift itself.

Christmas is no more about the boxes that contained the gifts than it is about the manger. Both were made special because of what they held. That manger may symbolize the drama of that first Christmas night, but eventually it was empty. The Shepherds went back to field, the Wise Men went back home a different way. Joseph and Mary had to move past the birth of this holy child and begin a life with him, starting by fleeing to Egypt to protect him from Herod. Jesus didn’t stay in the manger; it was just where he began his life on earth; it was not the purpose for which he came.

As you move into the new year, what difference does that empty manger make in your plans, expectations, and perspective for all that is to come in 2014? God gave his only son as his gift to humanity. That same son also left us the incredible gift of an empty tomb. What you do with that gift will determine how you spend eternity.

FOUND

Yesterday I lost my keys…again. I frantically search all over, everywhere I could think they might be, or anywhere that I might have laid them down while I was focusing on something else. That is how it usually happens. My mind is one place and my activity is somewhere else. But when my search finally leads me to what I seek, there is delight, relief, and the opportunity to focus on what is next, rather than endlessly repeating where I’ve been.

This morning as I read the Christmas story, taking comfort in the familiar words, I saw something new. Mary was “found” to be with child (Mat 1:18). Because the Joseph aspect of the story is in Matthew and the Elizabeth story is in Luke, it’s hard to merge the chronology of these two. Did Mary just run away to Elizabeth immediately after the visit from the angel? Was everyone surprised when she returned home, months later, looking very pregnant? Did she even try to talk to Joseph before the town gossips got in on the action? How exactly did he “find” out? Who “found” her to be pregnant? What did they choose to do with this information that they “found”? Did they assume Joseph had violated the betrothal laws, or that Mary had betrayed him during the months she was away?

But when I searched the word “found” in the gospels, I learned that the first “finding” in the Christmas story was when Mary “found” favor with God (Luke 1:30). The Christmas story is full of “finding”. The Shepherds “found” Jesus, lying in the manger (Luke 2:16). Herod “found out” from the Wise Men when the star had appeared.

The idea of being found is a key image and message of the gospel. When Jesus was lost, Mary and Joseph “found” him at the temple. When Andrew met Jesus, he told his brother that he had “found” the messiah. When Jesus was crucified, the soldiers came to break his legs, but “found” he was already dead. The women who came to the tomb “found” the stone rolled away. Luke 15 records three parables Jesus taught about “finding”: sheep, coin, and a lost son. In each of these parables he describes the utter joy of the one who “found” what he was looking for.

The Christmas story is God coming to “be found” by his people. He always knew where we were; he left where he was and came to Bethlehem that night in such a way that we could “find” him. He gave his own job description in Luke 19:10 when he said he came to seek and save the lost. His direction to us is to “seek first his kingdom”.

When I study history or read the news headlines, it is difficult for me to understand why God would seek us. We are unquestionably lost. We seek false gods that do not satisfy. We seek the “far country” and our own power and control. We seek what gives us temporary pleasure and are ultimately destroyed by our evil desires. Even those of us who want so much to be defined by our relationship with God sometimes “find” ourselves lost in the temptations and distractions of our world.

We are never lost to God. He always knows where we are. We are lost only in the sense that we “find” ourselves somewhere we don’t belong. As I look back at my life and all the times I’ve chosen to wander away from God, I’m completely humbled by a Savior who left heaven to “find” me, who seeks me every time I wander off.

We worship the God who made himself available to us, who seeks us, who wants to be “found” by us. When we realize that what we most seek in this life is the relationship with God who so wants to be “found”, we find relief and delight that the world cannot give, and we can then focus on the story and life that God so wants to share with us. This Christmas may you “find” the wonder of the baby in the manger who came to where you are, the love of the savior who left heaven to be found by you, and the joy of the Father/Shepherd whose incredible love forbids him from letting you stay lost.

What About God?

Annual pageants in churches around the world bring to life the names and roles of the people in the Christmas story. We know that Mary and Joseph chose obedience; the angels chose praise; the shepherds and wise men chose wonder. What did God chose in this story? What does this story teach us about God?

One of the first things that strikes me in this story is that God chooses to see the potential in his people, rather than the frailty of his people. The world saw Mary as an immature teenager; God saw the godly mother she would become. Joseph was a broken hearted man who had to have believed his fiancé betrayed him; God saw a man who would love and protect the Son of God as he grew up. The world saw shepherds as unimportant; God saw their capacity for joy and invited them to celebrate. The Wise Men were honored for their education; God saw men who needed a personal introduction to the savior of the world.

A second thing that I see in this story is that no detail is too unimportant for God to handle. There has never been a time when God rocked back on his heels, and said, “I never saw that coming!” He handles the details before he leads us forward. Elizabeth was pregnant just before Mary, so I suspect that is where Mary learned about pregnancy and birth. All the rooms in Bethlehem were full; what was it that made the innkeeper offer them his stable, rather than just turn them away? The wise men brought gifts fit for a king, but hardly appropriate for a baby. I wonder if the value of those gifts supported the holy family as they fled to Egypt and hid from Herod for a couple of years?

A third thing I see about God here is that no matter the circumstances, no matter the status or mood of the individual, God comes to us. He comes to people like shepherds who are not looking for him. He comes to people like the Wise Men who have to leave where they are to seek him. He comes in ways we don’t expect. He may show up in a stable, on the Damascus Road, or walking on water. He comes to people who don’t love him back, who don’t acknowledge or appreciate the sacrifice he makes for them. He loved, healed, taught, and fed people who never understood who he really was, who never realized they were face to face with God.

The God of the universe intentionally left the glory of heaven to appear in the humility of a stable, covered with the frailty of human flesh. All of this demonstrates his incredible love for such an undeserving people. He didn’t just want to protect us from the punishment of hell; he wants to provide the salvation that will allow us to spend eternity with him. All he asks of us is that we believe he is who he says he is, and that we trust his love enough to obey his plan.

May you be awed and humbled by the incredible love of this holy God, especially during Christmas. May your response to him be to seek his presence, and may you find joy and peace as we celebrate this incredible interruption in history.

Believe

Macy’s got it right. Their Christmas slogan is “Believe”. I’m not sure what marketing agency came up with that idea or that it is meant to mean anything more than a warm, fuzzy feeling that makes us want to shop at Macy’s. But they got it right; Christmas is all about believing.

Part of what makes the Christmas story so amazing is the childlike belief of the people who were privileged to be in that story. Mary believed that God would handle the details; she didn’t manipulate to make Joseph think the baby was his or demand that he marry her to protect her reputation. Joseph believed his dream and took Mary as his wife immediately. He believed a second dream and got Mary and Jesus out of Nazareth before Herod’s men came to massacre the baby boys. The shepherds believed the angels’ story and got to see the Christ child for themselves. The Wise Men believed the prophecies and went to find the new king. They believed their dream and avoided Herod on their return trip home. Anna and Simeon believed that God would answer their prayer for a messiah. They remained in the Temple until they held that answered prayer in their arms and hearts. The belief of each of these allowed them to see God made flesh and become a part of his story.

What do you believe? If you were to list the things you believe about God, what would they be? Do you believe enough to trust God with details and circumstances of your life? Even when those details are what you want or don’t make sense? Mary probably wanted a sweet Jewish wedding and life with a kind carpenter. Joseph probably wanted nothing more than to have a family and support it through the business in his carpenter shop. It is easy to trust God when we are getting what we want and the flow of life is according to our plan. But the problem comes when things do not work out according to our agenda. Oddly enough, it is most often those moments when God is in a position to give us exactly what we need for what is to come.

Let the simplicity of a childlike faith allow you to believe that God can rise up and be God right here in the middle of your life in this world. Believe that his plan is higher and better than anything on your list, and count on the fact that he still comes into our world and brings about your good for his glory….no matter what your current circumstances look like. Believe that God is who he says he is, and believe that he loves you more than you could ever ask or imagine. When your belief overshadows your fear, you will find yourself in the middle of God’s story.

God is in the details

God left out so many details of the Christmas story. The two key people in this story were Mary and Joseph, and we know so little about them. Where was Mary’s mother? Was she dead or just difficult and unlikely to believe the whole “divine conception” thing? Why would Mary travel to another city to see her cousin? Did she not have friends or family in Nazareth with whom she could share this? How had she and Elizabeth established such a trusting relationship when they didn’t love close to each other and travel was rare?

Why did Joseph originally choose Mary? Was he friends with her dad? Was he really so much older than she? Did he love her or was this betrothal something he did out of obligation to his culture? Did he love his work and his wood? Was his workshop his place of escape? What was it about Joseph that made God choose him? Did he have a deep relationship with God before all this happened, or was it kick started by the angel in his dream?

Both of them heard impossible truth from God, and both of them chose to obey, rather than trust their own judgment. Mary’s first response was “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38 Her second response was a song of praise. Joseph’s response was “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Matt 1:24 Without hesitation, both gave up the plans they had for themselves and trusted God with the details of their lives.

And God, in his mercy, gave them a critical detail that would help them have faith. Their angelic visitations were separate, but both separately were told the name they were to give this son they would raise together. (Matt 1:21 and Luke 1:31) Even after an experience like that it must have been reassuring to hear that same name coming from someone else’s angelic experience.

Most of the time we have to step out in faith before we see the blessing. John Burroughs’ quote, “Leap and the net will appear” reinforces the biblical precedent that obedience precede the realization of the blessing. Mary and Joseph spent 9 months living “normal” lives before they held that promise named Jesus in their arms. I suspect that they were both the subject of town gossip and speculation. I wonder if she had morning sickness? Was it an easy birth? We are not told of any more angelic visits or divine visions….until the angels and shepherds showed up the night he was born. Did she ever doubt the angel or her ability to raise the son of God? Did her discomfort on the back of that donkey put her in a bad mood? Did the unavailability of a decent room make them angry or afraid? Did Mary learn what to expect and do during birth because of her time with Elizabeth? Did Joseph help her during the delivery, or did he pace outside the stable, praying and worrying?

God is absolutely in the details: the ones we’re told and the ones that we’re not told. In his incredible mercy, a stable was actually not such a bad spot for a birth. It gave them privacy and shelter that they wouldn’t have had if she’d given birth on the trip to Bethlehem. Hygiene wasn’t an issue then, but anyone who has ever given birth or witnessed it knows there is a mess. In the stable, that mess was easy to remove with a pitchfork and replaced with fresh straw. The Lamb of God was born in a stable in Bethlehem, fulfilling Old Testament Prophecy and beginning God’s incredible effort to teach us about who he is. Joseph was looking for a room; God had reserved them a stable. The birth of a child contains such incredible joy and wonder. God brought them shepherds and angels to help them celebrate.

Mary’s response to the months of pregnancy, public speculation, uncertainty, and less than ideal birth conditions was to treasure all these things in her heart. Let our obedience depend on our faith, not our understanding of all the details. May our awareness of his presence so overwhelm us that our words can’t contain our thoughts, and may what we treasure in our hearts lead us to see the face of God.

What do you know?

Luke 2:9-14 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

I have to admit that I was disappointed when someone pointed out to me that the verb in this passage is “say”, not “sing”. One of the things I want to do in heaven is to hear the angel choir. I expect there will be clarity and harmony far superior to any we hear on earth. I suspect on that night, their voices were easily distinguishable from human voices. But it is what they said that makes all the difference.

They did not recount biblical history or give in depth analysis of God’s character or plan. They did not present the plan of salvation or explain how this event would expand modern theology. There was no sermon, no grand presentation of complicated doctrine. There wasn’t even a command! One angel came and made a simple announcement, and then suddenly a bunch of other angels appeared and praised God.

I wonder if the angels were there all along, but just let Gabriel make the announcement before they showed themselves. I wonder what the voices of the angels sounded like. When they left the shepherds where did they go? Back to heaven? Back to the manger? Did they watch over the shepherds as they traveled? Whatever the angels did next is not part of the story. Their job that night was simply to tell the facts to people who needed to choose for themselves how they would respond. They shared information and an invitation that glorified God and brought joy to his people.

We are not the same as angels, but God commands the same sharing from us. Too often we refuse to tell what we know about God because we think we’re not smart enough or that we might make the person we’re talking to uncomfortable. We keep what we know to ourselves out of fear of rejection or self-doubt or laziness.

We live in a world that is lost. Each of us knows people that are hopeless, desperate, sad, despairing. If you were dying and I had the medicine to heal you in my pocket, but refused to give it to you, I would be cruel and heartless and evil. There is something innate in humans that requires us to share what would improve the lot of others.

What do you know about God? What have you learned about him? Who in your life needs to hear what you know? God may not call you to be a great preacher or teacher or healer, but he does command that each of us go to a world that does not know him and tell what we do know about him. God’s word is more precious to me with each passing day. I love its stories, but those stories are not my story. I learn about myself from its stories, but it is my story that gives me passion. It is my story that I can share with authority. It is my story that has given the faith to trust God for the next step. I’m not a great preacher like Billy Graham or a merciful caregiver like Mother Theresa. God has given me a different story. In the Bible stories and in my stories the awesome moments when God shows himself are those times when his people are incapable of saving themselves. In those moments where we have no power or control, we see God in action.

It is inconceivable to me that God would send angels to find shepherds to invite to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. It is equally inconceivable that God seeks us individually to teach us about himself. When he makes himself known to us, our only obedient response is to share what we’ve learned about him.

God wants us to have a story with him. That’s what happens in relationship. Sharing life and fellowship gives you a common history and understanding of that person. Your testimony about God doesn’t have to explain or preach. The angels just told what they knew to be true. Your response should be the same. May your willingness to tell what you know about God lead others to seek him and cause them to praise him.

Divine Interruption

Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

Those shepherds were doing what they were supposed to do. They were ordinary men doing a menial job – low skill, low status among their people. Their whole job was to keep those sheep fed and safe from predators until they could be raised and sold, maybe even to the Temple for sacrifice. Their plan was to take turns dozing throughout the night. Their perspective was that they were the least of the least and didn’t matter much. Their expectation was that nothing would change. They weren’t watching for God, but God came anyway. Their night was interrupted by God and a group of angels.

For those shepherds that night, everything changed. They got a personal invitation from heaven to go to Bethlehem and see and worship the son of God himself. The shepherds abandoned their field and “hurried” to “see”. They didn’t just work God in when it was convenient or when they were well rested. God’s invitation to come took priority over everything else, and they got to see God up close, on the night he came to earth as a baby. The angels didn’t magically transport the shepherds back to town; they just gave them the information so they could chose to go for themselves, and that choice changed everything.

Wonder if they immediately found the right place, or if they had to search a bit. Wonder if they actually asked someone if they’d seen a baby in a manger? Whatever their journey from the field to the stable looked like, God amazed them when they got there, and their response was worship. Don’t you find it interesting that the people God chose to come and celebrate with Mary and Joseph were so common? Why not temple officials or priests? I wonder if any of those people got a holy nudge to take a walk through the stable district that night….and ignored it.

The shepherds saw a God who came to them, who sought them out, to be included in his story. These men were overlooked by the world, but they were chosen by God. The ones who took care of the sheep were the first chosen to see the child who would become the Lamb of God. Once they had seen the Christ child, they undoubtedly returned to the same life they had left the night before. They worshipped because they saw God as he was, they understood that God had answered the prayers of his people and had come to deliver them once again, this time in human form.

God has a long history of interrupting the lives of his people. Those interruptions may involve new locations, new family members, or new vocations. He may change your plan or your perspective or your expectations. He may convict your heart. His will may look like a pink slip or a new job offer. It may be the “surprise” baby when you thought your family was already complete, or it may be that your child chooses a spouse and you receive a new adult child. He may take someone or something from you so you can experience him in a new season of your life. He may add responsibility, or he may change your circumstances. Sometimes God’s interruptions change your life activity; sometimes his interruptions change your perspective as you continue to do the same life activity. Interruptions may be a happy surprise, or they can be inconvenient or unwelcome. They may cause celebration of what is new or grief over what is no more. They can give you rest or a new purpose or passion. But they always change things.

At this point in your life, what are you doing? What are you plans right now? What perspective do you have on your present/future? What are your expectations for this day? For next year? Is God a part of your plans and expectations, or is he going to have to seriously interrupt you to get your attention? Where is God calling you to come and see him? Will you trust God’s nudging enough to pursue it to the place where you can see his glory? To see him in action? Will you allow him to show you what he wants you to see, or will you ignore him and just protect your sheep, your job, your agenda?

May this Christmas find you listening for the angel’s invitation and seeking the face of your Savior. May you be reminded that you are absolutely loved by God. And may you respond to whatever interruptions God puts in your path with the obedience that will lead you to awe and worship.

Much Ado about....what?

So much of life, especially the big events, takes so much longer to get ready for than it does to actually do it. Christmas pageants and concerts have tens of hours of rehearsal for a performance that usually lasts only one. Unwrapping presents takes a tiny fraction of the time it took to plan and shop and wrap each present and craft beautiful wrapping and bows to decorate them. I may spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal that will disappear in 20 minutes. Months go into planning a wedding that usually takes no more than a few minutes. The women’s ministry team at my church is hours away from our 10th annual Christmas Tea. This year we will have 248 women. Months of endless details and hard work by so many go into planning a tea that will be only a memory two hours after it begins.

Is it all worth it? What is it about the preparation? Is all this “Much Ado About Nothing”, or is the preparation as important as the event? God thought it was. He spent six days preparing the place he would give to man. Whether you believe that was six 24 hour periods or six spans of time, he took the time to make it perfect before he created humans. He promised to “go before” his people into the Promised Land and into their future, and Christ has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us.

The time we spend preparing for what is to come really does matter. Anticipation of the event can be as exciting as the event itself. Rehearsals build relationships and memories, and hopefully lead to a performance that draws those who come to watch into the truth and beauty of what is presented. Each gift under the tree is evidence that someone is loved and special. My boys work and are rarely at home for dinner, so when we can all gather around the table, it is an increasingly rare pleasure. I want the meal to be delicious, but mostly I just want us to savor our time together. The details of a wedding may fade or become fun stories, but that wedding is the start of a marriage and love story that will hopefully last a lifetime. The vast majority of ladies who will attend the Tea have no concept of the complicated, time consuming details of tickets or door prizes or logistics of food preparation. They don’t see the chaos of the kitchen and the near misses of the servers. They just see an exquisitely decorated dining room and most think all the details were perfect. When family and friends find gifts under my tree, a meal prepared just for them, or a seat at a wedding or the Tea just for them, what I hope they understand is that they are loved and belong in this place I have prepared for them.

God is never hurried or frantic. He doesn’t stress or express irritation over details that just won’t seem to fall into place. Adam was created when Eden was ready. Jesus came in “the fullness of time.” (Gal 4:4) And in his great mercy, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. When we get there we will find gifts specifically designed for us individually. There will be a wedding and a feast. Your invitation is in your Bible. He wants us to know what is to come, so that we may joyfully anticipate its coming. The details will be magnificent, and we’ll have all of eternity to celebrate and share fellowship with our God, and with each other.

Become a star

Sometimes we want to blend in. There is comfort in anonymity. There is security in routine and “met” expectations. But doing what you’ve always done, will get you what you’ve always gotten. God loves us as we are, but he is in the process of making us new; our obedience in that process matters…to others and to us.

The shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) are mentioned only in Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. They were out in the field in the middle of the night, doing what they always did, what they were supposed to do. They were ordinary men doing a menial job when God sent angels to interrupt their sleep, their schedule, their expectations, and their lives. They weren’t special because of who they were; they became special because of what they did. They weren’t angry because of lost sleep; they weren’t dismissive because their agenda had been interrupted; they saw enough glory in the angels to want more. For 400 years God hasn’t spoken to his people, and now these angels beckon them. “Come on. I know where you can find God.” And the shepherds left what they were doing and walked back into town and found the promised Messiah wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. They saw the face and tiny hands of God himself.

The Wise Men (Matt 2:1-12) were astrologers. They weren’t looking for a Messiah, because, most likely, they didn’t even know Yahweh. They were watching heaven, trying to make sense of what they were seeing. But what made these men different was that they didn’t just catalog and record data from their study; they wanted to see and understand what it meant. There was a new star in their sky, and they couldn’t rest until they made sense of it. They interrupted their lives and packed their camels and journeyed many weeks or months over hundreds of miles to find what they didn’t know, but desperately want to understand.

The shepherds were asleep; the Wise Men were watching. The shepherds were society’s outcasts with no education and probably very little money or earthly wealth. The Wise Men were well educated, admired for the knowledge and expertise, and were paid by the king.

The shepherds weren’t looking for God; they were looking for a good night’s sleep…but God came to find them with a holy, once in a lifetime invitation. The Wise Men intentionally sought a God they didn’t know based on what they did know. Both paid attention; both went looking for God; both found him; both worshiped him; both returned to where they came from, forever changed by the result of their obedience to the call of God.

Sometimes the glory of God is right where you live, but you have to be willing to be interrupted to see it. Sometimes seeing God’s glory comes as a result of a long journey of looking for answers and seeking explanation and meaning. Sometimes God interrupts your life and forces you to choose between what you know and what you’ve planned and what he says. All the time, when you seek him, you will find him. Your seeking might just be over the next hill back to the town you know, or it might be a long journey to a place you’ve never been. The angels might make themselves known to you, or they might just invisibly guard and guide you into the presence of God.

Where are you this Christmas? Are you mired in the mundane? Do you need just a glimpse of glory to help you choose obedience? Or are you in an unfamiliar place desperately seeking answers to things you don’t understand?
Both groups traveled from where they were to where he was, in full expectation of finding him. What do you expect from God? What will you give him? A heart full of hope and expectation that he can use to spread the news of his birth and love to others who don’t know him? Or will you bring him the talents and blessings he’s given you so that you will be a blessing to others?

He is Immanuel, God with us. He may choose to interrupt you this week with glory, or he may choose to gradually, tenderly draw you from where you are to where he is. Either way, don’t miss it. The king of Heaven came to Earth to find you. Get rid of the clutter of distractions and the need to control and let him interrupt your life. Don’t miss the awe of finding the Messiah. And when you do, tell what you know about him to the people who aren’t looking for him, who don’t know where to find him, who refuse to be moved by the power and promise of Christmas. You become the angel or the star that calls them from where they are to where he is so that they can see God’s glory come to Earth, too.