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New year.  New hope. As we look to a fresh canvas of days, we are given the opportunity to again—to still—look to the Star, Jesus, for hope.  The new year will be filled with new opportunities and revelations.  They will come.  Be alert.  Even if your life right now is transitional, challenging or uncertain, the Christ of hope and purpose can guide you.  Trust His hand of love to usher you along. 

Whatever this year has been or has not been by your estimation, if Christ is in your heart, He has already redeemed the year for full worth in Himself.  Of all that Jesus is a part, He imbues it with meaning.  All He has ever done points to His love; a love  active and purposeful. 

Go forth, dear one, in the presence of Jesus.  He shall be at your side every step of His coming year.  Keep following the Star.

Lord Jesus, You remain faithful to Your people.  How we praise and adore You for the Saviour You are.  How dear You are to us.  How dear we are to You  as hold us in Your ever present love.  In Thee, Lord Christ, Amen.

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Christmas conjures different emotions in people. Because our life stories are unique, emotions show up for each of us in different ways; sometimes in ways we do not expect. If we grieve someone or something, grief is certain to complicate emotions at Christmas.  However, the very hope that Jesus brought so long ago is the same hope He still gives to you and to me today. 

Immanuel means God with us.  Jesus came to the world so that God would be with us.  He knew we would need Him so.  The birth of Jesus we celebrate at Christmas is far more than pageantry.  It is life giving and life-sustaining power.  God sent His Son to the world for assurance, companionship, and to demonstrate how very much He loves you and me.

When life is less than what you want it to be, the Lord Jesus is the more to fills you.  Hold to Him and His love and hope.  He is holding on to you.  He will not let you go.  He promised.  Know that.  Hold to that promise.  Tomorrow belongs to Him and you belong to Him.  Together you and the Lord Jesus will live tomorrow together in His abiding love and His upholding strength.

Loving Jesus, we celebrate Your birth and look to You with love knowing Your eyes of love remain fixed on us.  As we look on You with adoration, You look on us with deep affection.  Because of Your gaze of hope and love on us, we go on in Thee.  Amen.

Anticipation can be good or unwanted.  If we desire to see someone special, look forward to an event or hope for something wonderful to be on the horizon, anticipation is exciting and generates enthusiasm.  Conversely, when life hurts and disappointments come, when loved ones die, and when we experience betrayal, upcoming events and occasions are often met with dread or indifference.  When hopeful expectation is not present in us, the future can seem grim.  However, the arrival of Christ changes that.

This Advent Season is filled with hope—not because of our hope.  Because of His hope—for us.  Jesus, the Baby of Bethlehem, came to a lost and dying world to bring hope and new life.  It is there for the taking although some will pass it by, and even reject the hope Jesus brings because of life’s hurts.  Jesus knows it hurts.  Still, He offers to you and to me Himself so we may draw on His hope to see us through.  As we anticipate His birth, He anticipates our receipt of His hope.  This is why He came. 

Lord Jesus, You came into the world full of promise and an endless well of love and hope for all to draw on.  Thank You, Jesus, for all You have made and still make available to Your believers.  Thank You, Jesus, for Your touch of hope on those too weak to reach out but still needful of all You offer.  In Thee, Lord Christ, Amen.

Do you know that God is with you?  He is.  Immanuel means God with us.  Because Jesus came into the world, God is with you and with me.  When Jesus completed His earthly ministry, Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would be with us to comfort and guide us.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we are never alone.  Never.

Do you believe that?  If you are going through a time of sadness and grief, it may be difficult to believe that.  Emotions may overrule that truth and leave you feeling empty.  That is what grief does.  But each moment that you feel depleted, Immanuel is with you.  He has His hand on your shoulder and His Spirit covers you.  This Advent Season is a time to prepare for the celebration to remember that coming.  For those who grieve, Christ remembers you.  He knows what you are feeling.  He is with you.  Immanuel promised to be.  Trust beyond what you can feel to His living promise. 

Lord of Life, we look this season at the merriment around us and yet for those who are emotionally tried due to a loss of some significance, feeling merry is just not so.  Jesus, You know that.  In Thy grace and steadfast love, please touch those who ache this season with Your comforting and assuring presence.  Thank You, Lord Jesus, Amen.

GRIEF’S GIFTS

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.        James 1:17

When we think of gifts, more often we think of something we want and welcome.  A new book, a shiny toy, a tie or the gift of company with loved ones.  Seldom, if ever, is grief considered a gift.  However, hidden in and beyond its obvious sorrow is benefit to be revealed once grief’s shadow passes—which, it will.  In the Bible, the Book of James tells us something of perfect gifts and that they are from above, from God.  Grief is in God’s realm.  Grief offers something not readily seen when one is living in a season of grief but it is there.  In truth, grief bears several gifts—if we opt to receive them.

One gift is the compassion of Christ that often deepens in us in a time of personal loss.  To encounter a serious sever is to be especially sensitive to others who encounter loss.  Another gift is to realize the degree of God’s faithfulness.  It can become clearer when we grieve.  Without the absence of our measure of faith, we would not be able to see the immeasurable faith of God, and His hand that upholds us—regardless of how life hurts and how we feel.  Another treasure comes from Jesus Himself.  What Jesus did on Calvary for you and for me cost Him dearly.  When we grieve a penetrating loss, we get a little closer to comprehending the suffering Jesus endured and His grief due to separation from the Father.  We feel more keenly the love that brought Him to the Calvary, and kept Him there.  Ease and life’s lightness do not—cannot—produce awareness of such gifts, and concurrently shape more of Christ’s character in us.  Grief can.  

Christmas is a time of wonder, delight, and celebration.  The arrival of Jesus into the world is worthy of our celebration.  For those who grieve, celebration can seem far off and perhaps reserved for Christmas seasons to come.  God understands.  Others will try to understand.  Those who have ever suffered loss, already do.  It is worthwhile for those who grieve, and onlookers, to remember that the daily presence of the Babe of Bethlehem is here.  This Son of God grants joyous blessings but He came primarily to endure with us and for us the pains of this life, and to shield us from pain in the life to come. 

May this Christmas be a reminder that the Lord of yesterday and its memories, and the Lord of tomorrow and its hope, is with you and with me.  However Christmas is celebrated, Christ Himself is celebrated with and for the attention He gives to people.  This is attention He awakes in us through grief’s gifts.  We are wise to receive them and carry them with us throughout all the days of our lives.

Lord Jesus, You came to the world to meet people in need, and to rejoice with them in blessings.  At Christmas and throughout the year, we remain blessed, grateful, and humble by Your steady and powerful presence in our lives.  Lord Jesus, for those who are living this Christmas season with the ache of loss and emotional pains, we ask that Your touch be especially penetrating to them.  Please comfort those who grieve, equip those who encourage those who hurt.  Make and keep us Thy hands and feet to one another.   Thank You, Lord Jesus, for hearing our prayers.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for directly our steps to be Your meaningful answers.  In Thee, Lord Jesus, Amen.