Thursday, December 1, 2011

And Most of All, For Him

Despite the festive lights glowing around our living room, today was a rather ugly day. The toddler was whiny and drippy-nosed, the baby fussed and hardly napped, the boys bickered, the mom got frustrated, and everyone cried. Screams of anger and pain punctuated the day when one boy hit his brother with a stick, and then when said boy received retribution from a ricocheting rock launched by said brother. We read devotionals, discussed verses, and added an ornament to our Jesse tree as we remembered the faith of Abraham, but my feeble attempts to bring focus seemed in vain. Even with Bible open on our laps, the children were kicking, sitting on each other, pulling my hair, and daydreaming.

As I wearily tucked them into bed, I was tempted toward discouragement, but remembered: this is a mission field. And walking into a room of rowdy, disobedient children to give the gospel - with gentleness and love - was my mission. It is easy, sometimes, to speak God's truth, but so much harder to demonstrate. This morning, we read, Let us love not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18). And then we all failed, at nearly every opportunity, to show love to each other. Hearts were hard and tears were many. If nothing else, ugly days reveal my shortcomings to remind me how much I need a Savior, and that nothing matters more in parenting than showing my little ones the Savior's love.

We have been busy lately, as most families are this time of year: celebrating the boys' birthdays, enjoying Thanksgiving feasts with aunts and uncles, baking gingerbread men with Grandma, and decorating for Christmas. In the coming weeks, our schedule will continue to be full of fun and festive activities as we skip through the merry month of December. Yet in the midst of tracing paper hand turkeys and leftover pumpkin pie, the Lord impressed this on my heart:

I am sinful. My husband and children are too. Not just in some vague, "I'm a sinner" way, but in dark, ugly specifics that we seldom admit and may not even realize. Pride, selfishness, the lust of the eyes and of the flesh - they lie dormant in our hearts, periodically manifesting in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Yet God, knowing every wicked thought of our wayward hearts, still sent His Son to die for us. I am so blessed with my family, my home, the opportunity to teach my children, the abundance of food and clothing and other material comforts - but this all pales in comparison to God's grace in forgiving my sin. Of all I have to be thankful for, nothing can compare to the love God poured out on me by sending Jesus.

Dear friends, if you have never heard this truth, or if you have heard it a thousand times, but the good news is drowned out by cheering football fans and red-nosed reindeer tunes, let me tell you this:

Christmas is for all of us, because we all need a Savior. Without Him, we are trapped in the wretched darkness of our own sin. It is only through His light that we can truly live. His blessings are abundant, and there are so many gifts for which to thank Him each day, but in the end, earthly treasures rust, and the world's festive pleasures pass away. Jesus himself is all that really matters, and our only hope for salvation.

For those who know Him, let the holidays remind us to share the light of the One who saved us. We can twinkle with joy through ugly days and dark hours like tiny bulbs on the strand that lights up the tree, emanating light to friends, to strangers, and to the little ones who dance around us in the living room. And as we delight in every meal and gift and yuletide merriment, let us give thanks, most of all, for the One called Jesus, who saves us from our sins.

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