Merry Christmas - from our house to yours!

"A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel." Numbers 24:17 "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel." Matthew 2:6

IMG_3236Merry Christmas - from our house to yours!

I hope this letter finds you in a place of joy and quiet reflection as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I also hope that God will be close to each of you in this season that can bring both blessing and difficulty.

Sometimes it is hard to write these types of letters because I know we come from similar yet different experiences. Holidays are not always tinsel and bows and squeals of children's laughter on Christmas morn. Sometimes they are times of loneliness and longing for things now past. And we might ask ourselves--where do we find that spirit of Christmas joy? Where is that "peace on earth, good will toward men"?

Traverse City 139May I share something with you?

I've asked those questions. The moments of Christmases past carry sad and happy memories, depending on which year I reflect upon. I remember a two-year-old jumping up and down squealing in wonder over a toy he didn't expect to receive. But I also remember a Christmas when a dearly loved family member sat in our kitchen, thin and frail, and we knew it would be her last with us on earth. Life and death don't escape the season, do they?

Over the years I've faced false expectations and disappointments and then there were times when it seemed like God reached out to touch me in the simplest Christmas snowfall or the gift of a child coming home from far away. Those hugs last a lifetime in my heart!

IMG_7280But we all get it, don't we? We're human and in some ways we're also broken and hurting. We run around and do all of the supposed to shopping and we overspend and exhaust ourselves until we wonder why? .

But God...don't you love the way those words bring hope?

"But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship."

That's why Christmas! When the time was right, as it was over 2000 years ago, God sent His Son, born of a woman. Mary's response? "My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

Traverse City 150She was six months away from becoming the mother of her Savior. If I think about that long enough it takes my breath. I mean, I know the joy of giving birth to three sons, but not one of them, wonderful as they are, could save my soul from its sinful state nor save all of humanity from a life of meaninglessness and an even worse eternity.

But Mary knew her Savior was coming. She said, "The Mighty One has done great things for me."

As He has for each one of us. And do you understand why? Hebrews tells us that Jesus came and suffered all He did "for the joy set before him he endured the cross..." We can be assured that the joy was not tinkling lights and silver bells and manger scenes with halos hovering above ceramic nativity sets.

No. The "joy set before Him" was us, beloved! This is the joy of Christmas! Christmas is Jesus coming and giving us life!

But some of us tend to lose track of that joy in the crush and mess of holiday busyness and relationships. IMG_1472We get it back when we focus on our Savior. When our spirit rejoices as Mary did that the Mighty One has done great things for us. It is His gift to us.

Christmas isn't us exchanging gifts with one another. It is Jesus coming to earth to offer us the gift of life eternal! Oh what joy! What everlasting wonder that He came!

"...and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21b

May this Christmas be one of joy for each one of you, and may you feel God's loving presence holding you close in every moment, happy or sad, whispering joy into your ear, because He came for you. He loves you more than you will ever know.

In His Grace, ~Jill Eileen Smith