This year, the truth and beauty of Christmas is impacting me like never before. I mean, I can barely hear a Christmas carol without crying. Let me tell you why.
It all began earlier this year when my husband and I began volunteering at a local Muslim refugee ministry in town. After the first home visit, I was convicted about how little I could comfortably talk about the Old Testament. I had a surface knowledge of all the stories, though when it came to the details, I stumbled quite a bit.
I had to start somewhere. Six months ago, I opened my Bible to Genesis 1. I vowed to take in each book very slowly and to write down the stories in my own words after each sitting. Thinking that I was about to spend a long time in review, re-reading scriptures I’ve known all my life, the unexpected happened.
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Not only am I finding scripture I have never heard, but my heart has begun to ache.
Story after story of mankind sinning, messing up, being offered a second chance by their Creator, and then falling right back into sin. Even though I know how the whole story ends, consuming stories about the forgetful Israelites, the despair and division, the deceit and the decline of a nation… It starts to wear on you.
There are glimmers of hope in those like Ruth, Elijah, Josiah, and especially David, but there’s an overarching theme of a very broken people that don’t trust in God and His provision. And you know why I think it breaks my heart so deeply? I can see myself in the Israelites.
I see myself hearing the gospel, believing in it and then sometimes turning to the world for satisfaction. I see myself crying out desperately for God’s help, but once my feet are back on solid ground, I occasionally forget that it was Him who rescued me, not myself. It’s a painful, sobering reality.
The only thing that’s keeping me from closing the Bible at this point, the only way I’m getting through these very depressing stories is the fact that I know there’s a birth that will take place in Bethlehem. I know that God’s heart was breaking for His children, and He’s going to send a Savior for the whole world.
I know that Christmas is on the way.
Reading and relating to the Israelites has opened my eyes to the dark depravity in man, yes, but it has also reminded me of my deep, beautiful need for a Savior.
John Piper recently said, “If you don’t need a Savior, then you don’t need Christmas.”
Let me be the first to tell you… I. NEED. CHRISTMAS. I need it just as much as the Israelites needed it.
Without the birth of Jesus, my heart would be dark, my desires would be shallow, and my life after death would be grim. Without the birth of Jesus, my sins would be stacking up, breaking through the roof and crushing me underneath. Without the birth of Jesus, my overflowing hope and joy would be nonexistent, and my soul would be lost. This would have been the case until…
“Til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.”
And that’s why I can’t help but cry every time I hear a Christmas carol this year. When I sing words like “joy to the world” I respond so differently now as I think about those dark decades in Israel and how desperate they were for joy. My thoughts reflect on the children of God that refused to have a relationship with Him, and instead of giving up on them, He came to earth as a man to save them.
“Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee!”
The story of Christmas doesn’t begin in Matthew or in Luke… It begins in Genesis. The world was yearning for a Savior to break into their world long before John or Mary entered the scene. The story of Christmas is more than just the birth of a child, it’s God’s response to a hurting, weary, broken world.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”
God sees you in your loneliness, in your pain, in your stress and anxiety, and He is offering you a thrill of hope.
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Caitlin Jordan is the assistant editor for TheCourage. While she loves small towns and the great outdoors, she lives with her husband, Ryan, in the big city of Dallas, Texas. She is passionate about the importance of transparency and loving those that disagree with Christian beliefs. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.