Blooming in Hope when the World is Cold and Dark

 Christmas Cactus

----- Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. –Luke 1:78-79

In his name the nations will put their hope. –Matthew 12:21

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. –Romans 15:13 -----

The winter can easily bring on a feeling of hopeless. The daily grind of it all becomes too much to handle: the boots and hats, the bad roads and longer commutes, the frozen nostrils and numb fingertips. And at this time of year, the sun that goes down at 4:30 in the afternoon.

I love the symbolism of a Christmas cactus. It blooms when we most need that reminder of life. In its flowers we see that though the sun is not shining much, it is still shining enough to bring life. It reminds us that one day, that sun will shine warm enough and bright enough to melt the ice and bring to bloom the plants lying dormant under the frozen ground.

It is a symbol of hope.

Christ’s light is not simply a flicker or a glow or an aura; He is the rising sun. He is the source of life and warmth.

We bloom in Christ’s light as the Christmas cactus, a sign to others that His light brings life, and will one day will rid the cold and darkness from the earth.

The light of Christ is our hope. And through the Holy Spirit, we can be the symbol of that hope to others. ----- God of hope, shine the light and warmth of Christ into our lives. Remind us of the life He has given us. May our lives beam with the beauty of Christ, so that we may rest in Him and others may find their way to His hope. Amen. ----- In the Bleak Midwinter – Jars of Clay

“Shepherds fear the blinding light Haste to understand In the bleak midwinter Peace for child, for man.”

 


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

We Notice Light When We are in the Darkness

light

-----

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. –Isaiah 9:2

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12

-----

I accidentally left my Christmas lights on all day yesterday. I didn’t notice it for awhile because the light wasn’t obvious. Those little LED bulbs got lost in the ocean of daylight. It is in the dark blanket of the night sky that those small Christmas lights become tiny beacons of beauty. (Especially in Minnesota, when it’s dark so dang much of the day.)

It seems we notice Jesus the most when we are in touch with our darkness. His light is the flickering splendor of hope in the cold black night of winter.

-----

O Great Light of the world, come into our darkness now as you did then. Show us beauty when we see nothing but emptiness. Show us the way home when we are stumbling and can’t find our way. Shine like a beacon of beauty and hope, into our lives and into the world. Amen.

-----

Light of the World- Lauren Daigle

“Can you hear the Angels singing? Glory, to the Light of the World.”

 


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

Wonder: Bringing Down the Wonder

Tammy Perlmutter is great at making connections online and I am glad we found each other. She writes with vulnerability and sees beauty in broken pieces and unexpected places. Her post closes out the guest posts for this series. I hope it resonates with those of you who are feeling broken today.

 

I'm not known for my patience, and sadly it seems as though this trait has been passed on to my daughter. But we wait differently. I wait for good things to happen, but don't expect much. Phoenix waits for good things to happen with unfiltered excitement, joy,and expectation. She literally jumps up and down ecstatically. She is certain that good is coming her way.  

 

My jaded cynicism casts a gloominess on my expectation. I hold back excitement to protect myself from disappointment. When something good does finally come along, I worry about when something bad is going to happen next. I am not certain good is coming my way.

 

Christmas had become a time of severe loneliness and sadness for me, I didn't know how to find joy in the birth of Jesus. The longer nights and darker days leave me feeling bereft, slightly hopeless, and desperate for a new year to start. Since the Christmas wonder had not yet descended on me, I had to bring it down myself.

 

What I needed was to prepare my heart for his coming. I had to choose joy. We bought the advent wreath and the candles. We created our own Advent readings. My heart did grow brighter with each lighting of the candles. I witnessed the radiance magnified with each flame. I begun to anticipate Jesus' birth in a different way.

 

As the flickering grew with each sulfur hiss, my heart grew quiet with hope, but with the hope was a homesickness. In the midst of all the busyness, conflict, events, responsibilities, connections, and blessings, was a longing for home, that place where I would find true rest and true restoration. I would meet the Person who had been preparing a place for me for so many years. I'm growing impatient with myself and this world.

 

The first Advent was recorded in the Book of Isaiah. This prophecy stated that the virgin would conceive and give birth to a son, and he would be named Immanuel. Between the time of Isaiah's prophecy and the ministry of Jesus 680 years had passed. That was a long time waiting. The need for a savior hasn't lessened with time. If anything, it's grown more desperate.

 

It was dark then and it's dark now, some would even argue it's darker, others would say there's nothing new under the sun. For all our enlightenment, scientific advancements, medical breakthroughs, economic progress, and improved quality of life, our lives and times are shadowy still. The horizon may be glowing a bit brighter than before, but we are still in the twilight of our waiting. We still need a savior and our dark hearts still need saving. It's still Advent. Even now, we are waiting, like the people and the prophets, for salvation, deliverance, rescue.

 

He's still coming. But we're not waiting 25 days or 680 years. It's been over 2,000 years and counting. Our hearts are heavy with waiting. We are homesick with longing for a place we've never seen. For all my "savedness" at times my heart is still drawn to darkness, I grow weary waiting for my deliverance and I substitute what I need for what I want. I give in. I give up. I settle for less. The hope of the future means nothing to me in those moments. I get hopeless. I get lost in the shadows.

 

I need Jesus to be born again in my heart again and again, when my hope is dwindling and my spirit is darkening. I need this Morning Star, this Light of the World, because I am as dark as a Bethlehem night. This week in Advent we light the candle for hope, while the light breaks through on the horizon. It's dark and dim and dreary here, but the Light is coming. It feels like an eternity, but he promised he would return for us. So we wait, in expectation of the good, with childlike hearts and certain hope, for our homecoming. And hope does not disappoint.

 


About Today's Guest Blogger: Tammy Perlmutter

I grew up in Philadelphia, and in those formative years I was raised in a river-front ghetto, the suburb where M. Night Shyamalan films all his movies, the Pocono mountains and the Jersey shore. I loved it all (except the suburb), and was taught to find beauty and wonder in sometimes unlikely places: curbside cast-offs, junk yards, abandoned houses, railroad tracks, mechanic shops and even a family  friend’s mortuary. My blog is Raggle-Taggle and I tweet @tammygrrrl.

 

Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.