16. BEHOLD: The Light of the World

These photos are from Longwood Gardens (visit if ever you get the chance!)

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The Christmas display at Longwood is gorgeous. At night, it’s mind-blowing. There are lights everywhere. Half a million light strands, actually.

As you walk around, the whole property is dark. Acres and acres of pitch black. There are no street lamps to guide you. All you have are the lights adorning the trees and bushes.

You realize as you explore how important light it is, and how beautiful. Without light, we’re left to stumble. There’s a reason people are afraid of the dark.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”

John 8:12

But with light comes possibility. With light, there is hope and cause for wonder and awe without fear.

When light adorns trees, and homes, and mantles, they take on a new quality that extends beyond whimsy and tradition. Light transforms.

Exposing, highlighting, and illuminating, light rightly separates things from darkness and declares them worthy of being gazed upon.

And there is Christ, the light of the world.

Behold,  the illumination of the hope we have.

Behold, the transforming light of our Lord.

Behold, the way: lit first for us by a humble, tiny babe.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday

15. BEHOLD: The Calm

Crazy days. Crazy illnesses, crazy injuries. Crazy times with students. Crazy plans to keep up with. Crazy lots to get done. Crazy excitement ahead. Everything is crazy these days. Has anyone else hit that point yet? Regardless of the careful planning ahead, Christmas always seem to come with craziness.

It must have during the first Christmas, too. Our peaceful nativity scenes don’t reflect it, but…

I can’t imagine that Mary wasn’t going a little nuts while entering labor AND searching for a place to stay or being hunkered down in a barn. A city so full that there was no room at the inn doesn’t sound peaceful or quiet. The King plotting to kill Jesus from the time he heard of His birth certainly sounds a little mad.

Praise the Lord that He is the calm!

That little baby we celebrate knew the perfect peace of God better than any of us have ever been able to fathom. His life reflected that though His circumstances rarely did.

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.

They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.”

Psalm 107

In all of the storms and throngs of angry people and lists of material things piling high, the Lord is and was constant, calm, and able to hold it all together. All that He holds together is His, after all.

Even angry, flipping tables, Jesus could still calmly and ultra-wisely answer His accusers. When they seized Him to kill Him, He calmly healed a soldier’s ear and spoke calm over His disciples.

That sort of calms knows no bounds except for the will of God. His calm is the sort of calm we need every Christmas, and every day.

Behold, the one to whom we can go when we need calm.

Behold, the calm who keeps that which would overwhelm at bay.

Behold, the reason for the calm at all: God’s Will is so good that the trouble is worth the calm that always comes anyway.

This Post is being Shared on: #WomenWithIntention and #TellHiStory

13. BEHOLD: The Author and Editor

Oh, the stories that come with Christmas! Tales of wild festivities, hilarious memories, and sentimental moments. At Christmas we also face stories we’d rather not; disappointing and painful memories are often whispering in the background.

One story we also hear tells of Christ’s coming to earth to save us. This is the greatest story, and it’s true. Even better –the author is still at work.

“You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.”

Acts 3:15

Not just the author of your life story, or mine, our God is the one who created life. He is the one who overcomes it’s limits that we may live with Him forever. With just a word He gives this life, and with another, He takes it away. He came up with life, and He brought into being, and He sustains life as we know it.

With just a word, He also changes life as we don’t know it, too.

We all like to think that we plot out our paths. We try to select the themes for our Christmases, our homes, and our lives. “It’s my story” we say, and we only get to write it once. What we overlook is this fact: as the author, He gets to edit.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

The greatest story, and the whole story, are written by the Hand of God.

Praise Him that for all the plot twists we wish weren’t there and all the corrections we try to make, His edits keep the story complete and perfect.

Behold, the Author whose edits to our contributions only make it better.

Behold, the Story with no plot holes, no errors, and no constraints.

Behold, the One who assures us that the story isn’t over and it won’t be.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup 

11. BEHOLD: The Brave

Isn’t it silly which things require bravery? Saying “no” to a friend’s Christmas invitation seems scary because they might be offended. Choosing that particular gift can be frightening because it may not be what they wanted and it will hurt to see it rejected. Telling a co-worker about the Christmas Eve service carries risks.

These things aren’t even really threatening. Yet, we act in fear. Saying yes to everything, apologizing for gifts before we give them, and avoiding the most essential topic in the world.

Thank God Jesus was brave. More than brave- thank God Jesus was fearless.

His fearlessness made Him man, born a dependent baby to sinful people. His courage led through a life of persecution. Finally, His bravery brought Him to die on a cross and be separated from God Himself. And then…to rise again. It’s because of that that we truly live!

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
1 Cor 15:14
“Because I live, you also will live.”
John 14:19

And in all that, Jesus never shook. He never wavered. There was never a compromise to take a step back when threats arose –the very kind of threats we rarely hear but always fear: abandonment, rejection, and betrayal.

Why?

Jesus had no cause for fear. He was (and is!) so aligned with God and so fully accepting of God’s perfect sovereignty in all things that He has no cause for fear. For us to live that same way is brave.

Christ was beholding the truth. So fixed on it was He that nothing could stir up doubt or fear in Him. He was so complete and fulfilled in God that there was no room for fear.

We can follow that example. We can be bold like Christ is bold by beholding Him too.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation–so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?”Psalm 27:1

Behold, the one whose path is straight leaving us no cause to stray.

Behold, the one whose way is perfect, leaving us no need to be afraid of anything.

Behold, the one whose loving-kindness replaces all our fears with the bravery of Christ.

10. BEHOLD: The Adorner

Why do we decorate at Christmas time? Jesus was born in a manger, and yet many of us to celebrate his birth deck out our whole houses. It takes years to accumulate complete sets of decorations –from expensive pieces to enough simple lights to cover the trees, banisters, and yard. For some, it takes almost as long just to put the decorations up.

Despite the irony, it seems we do have a good reason for the adorning of our homes during this season: we’re symbolically welcoming the adorner.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the one who brings news of peace, who announces good things, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!’”

Isaiah 52:7

By decorating, we announce that the Lord is come. We announce that salvation is available to all, and that eternal life with Him is something to celebrate.

And doesn’t it seem like the Lord joins us in the effort? December is beautiful. The December sky is striking. Up north, here, we have this chilled air that wakes you up, opening your eyes. Driving around, we see lights and bright colors everywhere. We must not forget that the Lord made those, too.

Along with the beautiful we see, there is also the beauty He adorns the world with internally. Beauty like hope and love. The “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4.)

Scripture tells us that Christ was there in the beginning. The same Lord who became that little baby, born to save us from this ugly thing called sin, created us in the first place.

And now, He creates us anew. Rejoice in that beauty. Rejoice in the “new clothes” He adorns us with. Rejoice in the Word and Spirit, written on our hearts to turn us from cold stone to living testimonies of His –yes His, glory.

“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”

–Psalm 29:2

Behold, the beauty of the good news.

Behold, the adornment of the world in light, living color, hope, and transformation.

Behold, the adorner who makes it so.

This post is being shared on: #DanceWithJesus and #LifeGivingLinkup.

8. BEHOLD: The Healer

Along with the Christmas season comes the cold season. And the flu season. And the season for strep throat, pneumonia, exhaustion, etc. Those are just the physical illnesses that plague the holidays.

With Christmas, for many, comes disappointment. The heartache of loneliness and loss seems exacerbated by the twinkling lights and appearance that all is somehow well and right with the beautifully adorned (or masked) world around us.

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

-Luke 5:31

Let this be salve for your soul: the healer has come. The great physician was born in Bethlehem a couple of thousand years ago, and He is still at work today.

His healing comes as He did: vulnerably. Through faith. Mingled with the unexpected. Humbly. And with such compassion…

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 103:13-14

Who better to trust with our pain, heartache, and illnesses than the very one who made us? We know that His care and provision are perfect. His way is better than ours, and His plan more complete than we can imagine –even when it doesn’t look that way.

Few thought, looking at the baby in a manger, the reviled wanderer, or the man on the cross, that it was through that relentless compassion and formidable humility that the healing of all mankind would come.

But it did.

More than just treating our ailments and our weariness, Christ’s healing relieves us of the burden of sin. He re-forms the disease of the human heart.

“Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.”

Jeremiah 17:14

Behold, the one who became a baby to give us the cure!

Behold, the one who heals us of the most deadly disease.

Behold, the healer whose method is the most gentle, compassionate, and perfect.

This Post is being Shared on: #WomenWithIntention and #TellHiStory

7. BEHOLD: The Bearer

I have 60 people on my Christmas card list this year. There are more than 10 people to buy for. That’s just Christmas stuff. The Lord blessed me with a new job a few months ago. The more people I get to know there, the longer my prayer list grows. That’s on top of the huge to-do list that multiplies at Christmas time.

Sometimes, it seems the load the lord gives me (and you!) is too much to bear.

Picture a little donkey, with a pregnant woman on his back. And her possessions. And her husband’s. What a load he bore. Imagine a teenage girl, pure and righteous, pregnant out of wedlock, carrying God’s child. That’s a hefty load.

Here’s the truth: the more people we know, the more we have to bear. The little baby boy born in to the woman riding the donkey had the whole world in His hands…a load we cannot fathom.

Jesus knows EVERYONE. And, because He loves, He bears it ALL.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

-Isaiah 53:4

Christ came with the weight of our every burden upon Him. He carried that to the cross and down to the grave. Today, He continues to bear our loads, saying that we can cast all our cares upon Him.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient,

bearing with one another in love.”

Ephesians 4:2

The burdens and loads we do bear, given by the Lord, are light because He’s holding us.

Take on one more Christmas card to make that new friend’s day. Stop to pray with the loved one now. Cross something off of your to-do list to take time to praise the one who has taken the time to walk with you through it all.

Behold, the bearer of the world.

Behold, the bearer of the best news we all need to hear.

Behold, the bearer who is bearing you today!

4. BEHOLD: The Victor

A downside of the Christmas season for many of us is the tensions that arise. Wars fought in families surface and emerge during holiday celebrations. Emotions are heightened as a “perfect Christmas” backdrop stands in stark contrast to what many actually face.

Culture wars are waged over the different types of celebrations (and holidays) that people participate in. The lonely and the bitter often enter into battle with those around them who are caught up in what seems unrealistic or unfair joy. A spirit of competition arise in stores buying presents. There are even wars in our hearts over jealousy and greed.

Ironic, almost, that during the season of peace so many of us are so often at war. Even moreso, that we enter into battle while celebrating the birth of the victor. Christ reigns victorious.

When we think of Him coming as a boy, we picture a peaceful baby and a peaceful manger scene. But in fact the war was won through that baby. His arrival was a declaration of war to the enemy. And He came, in His words,

not bringing peace, but a sword

Matthew 10:34

We read that, and then we read:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace.”

Ephesians 2:13-14

The one who is victorious, even over death, is also peace Himself. The sword and the peace are bound up together. The good news for us is that the sword He brought and the peace He is have won.

Through the battles we fight during Christmas time, we do well to remember that. He came as righteousness, piercing the soul and dividing right from wrong perfectly. He also came as our peace.

He’s won the war that engulfs all others –even our family battles, even our cultural tensions, even the sin in our hearts. That picture of peace reigns victorious.

Behold, peace Himself and the sword He brings.

Behold, our commander in every battle.

Behold, the victor who has won the war and leads into new life forevermore!

2. BEHOLD: The Promise Keeper

There’s something about December that draws up the dreams in our hearts. Maybe it’s the sappy music and the happy advertising everywhere. The nostalgia of beloved traditions, fine decorations, and lights glowing everywhere stirs up joy -and hope.

In this season of dreaming, we’re apt to make promises and ask for them. “Promise you’ll come home in time for the party” we say over the phone. “I promise you’ll love the celebration this year,” we say to the loved one who is concerned with the memory of last year’s holiday drama. In the midst of the magic of Christmas, we mean it. But we’re only able to keep so many promises. And others can only keep so many that they make, too.

As it stands, for most of us, Christmas can also be a time of disappointment over the broken promises. The good news is this. During this time, we’re beholding the promise-keeper.

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” –Acts 2:39

That promise is the promise of salvation, realized in the very one we celebrate at Christmas. When Jesus came as a baby, He kept the promise God made thousands of years earlier. That promise is still being kept today.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” –2 Peter 3:9

Through our many dreams, praise God for His patience and faithfulness. If He has begun it in you, He will bring it to completion. He will not leave any promise half-filled, nor make any promise that isn’t perfect.

If the Lord makes a promise, it is good, and He will make good on it!

Behold, the Lord whose promises are kept for eternity.

Behold, the Lord whose promises are kept in unexpected ways.

Behold, the Lord whose promise is the most important for everyone, in every way.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday

1. BEHOLD: Our Comforter

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3

As the weather gets colder and the season busier, we tend to seek out creature comforts. Big, soft blankets get piled on couches. Rooms are decorated and dimly lit to provide a warm, inviting glow. The seasonal food we enjoy is comfort-based, most of it served toasty and sweet.

Think of your favorite Christmas-time comfort. God designed it.

In all the little comforts we find, we also find the comfort of God.

Comfort, at its core, isn’t pretty and polished. We don’t find our comfort in glistening, freshly cleaned rooms or at fancy dress-up holiday celebrations. It isn’t in the gift-giving or the busy-busy of preparing for the perfect Christmas.

Instead, comfort is found in messy, flour-dusted kitchens where cookies are still baking. It’s in the tired, wet hugs of loved ones who have traveled to visit.  Our comfort comes from the crooked Christmas trees that took comedies of error to put up but warm us when lit in the evening while watching that worn-out old video that we know every line to.

The comfort the Lord provides is like that. Familiar. Given as a part of the tradition, the promise, that He is here and He cares.

“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.” –Psalm 119:76

Our comfort is found in a straw-stuffed manger, in someone else’s barn, not according to our perfectly-laid plans, but according to that promise: He is here! And He cares!

Behold, the comfort of a newborn baby.

Behold, the comfort of the Lord with us.

Behold, the comfort of the familiar, a promise remembered year after year.

This post is being shared on: #WomenWithIntention and #TellHiStory