Preparing for Christmas with Family: What is God calling you to this season?

For most people, going home for Christmas is met with anticipation and eagerness! Some unfortunately dread it. But everyone can agree that spending time with family comes with some challenges and occasional drama! Therefore, for the believer, visiting family should include self-examination and prayer in preparation.

At community group a few weeks ago, we shared our “goals” for spending Christmas with our families: ways that we need to grow in order to love our families well or share the gospel with them. One of the men in my group shared the idea that going home for Christmas can parallel the Prodigal Son parable of Luke 15:11-32. I been thinking on his comment ever since.
The story of the Prodigal Son includes 3 characters:

1.) the humbled, younger brother who once acted foolishly and disrespectfully, and hurt the people closest to him.

2.) the perfect, older brother who has a blameless slate, always pleases his parents, and is offended by his brother’s behavior.

3.) the welcoming, gracious father, who loves this sons without condition, and is overjoyed to have his youngest back home with the family.

Whether your family loves God and loves each other, or is completely dysfunctional, we will all resonate with at least one of these characters this Christmas season. Are you the younger brother who is coming home like a dog with its tail between his legs, or maybe with your defenses up, to a family who you’ve disappointed? Are you the older brother who is frustrated by the actions of a family member? Have you been betrayed and wounded by someone you love, like the father was?

No matter which character you resonate with, God can use the Prodigal Son parable to challenge you this Christmas. Maybe you are called to humble yourself and say, “sorry” or “you were right” to a family member you hurt. Maybe you are called give a thoughtful gift or laugh with a family member who you struggle to respect. Maybe you are called to embrace and forgive someone who hurt you.

As you make your way home for Christmas, what is God calling you to? Who is the person you want to share the gospel of humility and forgiveness with this season? Let’s join with our Father to celebrate the good news that He welcomed us sinners into his family!

Merry Christmas!

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celebrating a (second birth)day.

I have been anticipating December 10th for a while now. I didn’t know how I would feel once it got here, but tonight find peace in God. Last year today I had beginning signs of miscarriage. The next day our little 8 week baby passed. I guess I could call it baby’s “birthday.” Even though baby had its birthday and death wrapped up in the same moment, I am comforted that he or she experienced an immediate second birth in the presence of God. What a wonderful thing…A moment I long for! Today we sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at Sojourn in preparation for the advent of Jesus. This part filled me with so much joy…

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

So a year later, I rejoice in the image I have of that risen little one knowing fully the love of God!

Tonight I am also comforted by the doctrine of “God’s Eternity.” In Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem defines this doctrine: “God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time.” And Psalm 90 sings, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” I was having such a hard time wrapping my mind around how to “grieve rightly” about the loss of our baby. (As I mentioned a few weeks ago,) on one hand, if the miscarriage wouldn’t have happened, I would not have gotten pregnant with Jack. However, I love and miss my other baby and was looking forward to being his or her mom! Do I wish away Jack to have my other baby in my arms? Or do I thank God for how everything worked out?

The good news is that I don’t have to wish away either baby! Even though our minds can only conceive time in days, and months, and so on, God is OUTSIDE of time. And while my mind cannot conceive a women having two babies that are a month apart in age, what is impossible with man is possible with God (Luke 18:27). He sees our existence outside of the realm of time and space. Therefore, both pregnancies happened and mattered. Therefore, Jack AND his brother or sister exist! Therefore, both babies are my babies! God sees both children and loves them. He has a plan for both of them and will glorify them both in himself.

Because Jesus was born to come and die, light has been shone into my darkness.

Tonight I am thankful for my children and for God’s word which brings peace to my heart. I can’t wait to meet our sweet risen baby. Happy birthday, little one. Mama is so glad that you are protected and kept by a faithful savior until the coming ages, the second Advent of Christ.

celebrating life because the child was born.

The day after Thanksgiving, Kevin and I found out we were expecting a child! oh what joy filled our hearts! We had talked about beginning our family early, prayerfully seeking the Lord’s will and seeking counsel from brothers and sisters wiser than us. When we didn’t feel a strong conviction to wait or try to have a child, we made a choice and walked in faith. Three months later, I took received a positive pregnancy test!

Of course, we began dreaming of August 2nd, thinking of baby names, and figuring out how to create a nursery in our small space here in Louisville. Having a lot of anxiety and fear, I meditated on Psalm 139:

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

 

How wonderful that I was a witness to new life; yet another image bearer of God! I trusted that God was in control when I read that He knew my baby’s form and all of its days, even when it was the size of a sesame seed and without any recognizable structure! I had a lot of peace knowing that God gives, and also takes away, in His own time. His giving was not a result of Kevin and I’s planning or lack there of. His giving was also not because we earned it or deserved it. God was so good to me! Because of His good gift, I am forever a mother.

However I knew that His taking of this baby’s life was no more predictable than the length of my own. I knew how fleeting and fragile life is, especially since so many women in my life have lost babies or are struggling through infertility. This awareness was in the forefront of my mind while celebrating my pregnancy. It would have to be God’s sovereign grace that would carry this child.

Around 6 1/2 weeks in, I experienced a miscarriage. It was heartbreaking. I felt empty, like the home that I had become the past month and a half was now just an open space in my body. I felt joyless, knowing the thing that I had been so excited about was now not a reality. I felt guilt, passing the baby and not being able to protect him or her from death. But mostly, I felt bitterness toward the Lord, because I really thought He was going to prove my fears of miscarriage wrong and show me abundant mercy.

Now, a few weeks later, I am still trying to understand God’s character: how He can be sovereign over all things, and yet always doing good to me and for me. Satan has been twisting my theology and tempting me to despair, but the Lord is gracious, and is near to the broken-hearted. He is teaching me to rest in the unknown “whys” of life and hold fast to the truths in His word. He also has sent many Ohio friends to Louisville as a comfort, along with many of Kevin and my friends here to spend time with us, empathize with us, and love us. I am blown away by how cared for I feel.

 

Most of all, He has placed this joy of pregnancy and trial of miscarriage right in the middle of advent. While I mourn the loss of my own child, I am filled with joy and thankfulness that Mary’s child–the firstborn heir of God–Jesus was born! By the will of the Father, He was born healthy, and according to that same will, He was sent to die unjustly on the cross for our sins. The sovereign hand of God over Jesus’ life and death brought every child after Him the hope of eternal life.

And so on this Christmas, I can celebrate life! Life that comes through the child, Jesus being born. I am thankful that I have received this hope, and I have faith that my child has entered into this hope–being loved and held by God, untouched by this sinful world, and receiving a new body. Amen.

this sermon excerpt has been on my heart.

God takes small, imperfect things and builds them into a habitation for his glory. O, how we should take courage in our little spheres of influence! And is this not the message of Advent and Christmas? What more appropriate word could God have said to Mary as Jesus was growing up: Take courage, young mother, you build more than you see. And so it is with every one of us. Nothing you do is a trifle if you do it in the name of God. He will shake heaven and earth to fill your labor with splendor. Take courage, you build more than you see.

-John Piper

what kind of family traditions do you have?

As a new wife, I have started thinking about values and traditions that Kevin and I want to put in motion now, before we try and start a family someday. Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper has given me a platform of why we do traditions and how to make them God-centered. However, I am interested to see what other families have made daily, weekly, or seasonal traditions in their home. So that is my question: what kind of gospel-centered family traditions do you have?

I am specifically interested in Advent/Christmas traditions, since Kevin and I made the decision to spend every Christmas day at home with just “our” family (just the two of us now, but hopefully someday our children too).

Go ahead and start replying!!

To the weary world- Rejoice!

So I sat down this morning with my daily glass of diet coke and Patty Griffin playing in the background. A perfect start to the day. Trying to piece together the sporadic thoughts of my busy mind during this season. I’ve been running hard- Finishing school, working everyday, still having an empty wallet and A LOT of things I have to buy before the new year. I’ve been trying to build into my current relationships and foster new ones. And I’ve been trying to follow Jesus. And never ever have I been so comforted by the season of Advent. I feel like I am part of the “weary world” that rejoices and falls on it knees in the song Oh Night Divine. I rejoice because my God has willingly entered into my world, into my mess, and became a light.  The transcendent king becoming imminent friend and of his birth, there are great implications. Simply meditating on christmas hymns this year, I’ve come to see that Jesus was born to be one with us// to be the second, better, Adam// to give us second birth//that we no more shall die//to make his blessing flow far as the curse is found//to rise with healing in his wings//to rule the world with truth and grace//to make the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love//to fit us for heaven//to join us into the triumph of the skies. This is a favorable time! In Christ’s we have received grace upon grace! But even more than grace, we have received a hope greater than we could have ever dreamed.  This year I’ve spent a lot of time looking forward to the second coming of Christ. I’ve been encouraged thinking that this is the second advent– that Jesus is pushing back darkness now though the cross,  but is coming back with a sword, a robe dipped in blood, and a righteous judgment that will push back darkness for good and dwell with man for good.  On that day, there will be a reckoning and Jesus will punish those who stole glory from him and trampled on his grace and favor in the Gospel.  And on that day we will either be judged for sin or we will be claiming Jesus, who took our judgment. I rejoice because on that day I will claim Jesus who took my final judgment. And so friends, the rest of you out there in the weary world, rejoice. We are only running for a season, we will celebrate for eternity.

Oh, and enjoy this.