In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people….’
– Luke 2:8-10
The ham sizzled in the oven; the cookies sparkled in festive dishes next to the miniature Christmas village.
The Christmas tree sparkled with rows of red and white lights. Nearby, the nativity glowed in the humble light of a single bulb, set carefully behind the angel who kneeled before the Babe. All was calm. All was bright.
I was a wreck.
The holidays capped a year of hardship and stress. The ghost of Christmases past shrouded my soul as I tried with all my heart to recreate the warmth and nostalgia we usually enjoyed as a family in December. We had so much to celebrate, and yet my heart was still raw from the spiritual warfare we had endured. Christmas reminded me of all we had lost and had fought so hard to regain.
It would be a couple of hours before I had to mash the potatoes and welcome guests to Christmas Eve dinner at our house. I grabbed the opportunity for some quiet time. In the solitude behind closed doors, I began to pray and weep. I was tired, despondent, empty. I had been a Christian for many decades and had never felt so lost.
I knew the Bible. I believed that God was near and that He cared. It just felt like day after dreary day for an entire year had presented challenges too daunting to conquer. I knew I wasn’t alone. But I felt that way.
Unrefreshed by the break, I was trying to pull myself together to finish dinner when the phone rang. The caller asked if she had the Thorson household. When I assured her that she did, she responded with a resounding, “Thank God! I have been hunting for you all day.” She was calling for an elderly friend of ours, one with whom we had lost contact after her move to another town.
She put the friend on the line, and the two of us had a lovely conversation. We talked of old times at the church we once attended together. I thanked her again for her many kindnesses to our family over the years. We laughed and chatted and exchanged addresses, so we could keep in touch.
When we had exhausted the memories, she said, “I’m so glad I got ahold of you. I just had to find you today.”
Could she hear my heart skip a beat on the other end of the line? How could she have possibly known how much I needed to be found at that very moment?
Life tends to make spiritual Darwinists of us all. Days stretch into weeks which stretch into months. Years may go by without seeing a change in our landscape. But what we see outwardly is deceiving. God walks each mile with us. He works quietly, behind the scenes, changing us and working out His will in our lives. The process is costly and slow by our standards, but necessary.
The promise of a Deliverer was given to mankind in the book of Genesis. But it took thousands of years for mankind to be ready to receive its King. While earth waited, God worked the thread of redemption throughout history for the moment He would be revealed.
On a night somewhere in Bethlehem, He arrived suddenly to an unsuspecting world.
He came in humility to break our pride, in tenderness to heal our sorrows, and in sacrifice to break our chains. To every generation since He has offered life in eternity, comfort in our suffering, courage to overcome our fears, and strength to carry us throughout the journey home.
The night Jesus was born, the world was filled with darkness. But the heavens were alive with light and glory and angels’ songs. Suddenly, an angel arrived with the news that a Savior breathed the same air as His creation. In a moment, the divine had invaded the mundane. In an instant, everything had changed.
We were found. May that reality keep you and give you hope every day of this new year.