Merry Christmas 2015!
Christmas Eve is just two short days away. Many of you are making your final plans for candlelight services, special programs, and family gatherings, even now. Some of you may be doing some last minute shopping hoping that you’ll find that right and perfect gift that you may have overlooked in the shops you have already been to. Whatever your plans may be for the next few days, I pray God’s greatest blessing on you and your family this Christmas.
Sometimes… many times in life… things don’t always turn out like we think they will. When I left home this morning I was having a very nice and peaceful drive to the district office. There were clouds out… the sun wasn’t shining… and there was a slight drizzle. Traffic was moving along quite nicely… until, as always, just before the 210 split (just where the 134 merges on to the 210) and before the two tunnels right here in Pasadena. I came to a complete stop and was waiting for the traffic to move, once again. Unfortunately, the dark pick-up truck behind me must have forgotten to put on his brakes and slammed into the back of my car. He then, immediately back up, went around me and drove straight on to Colorado Blvd. A hit and run! This was NOT the way I had planned to start my day. (You guessed it… the back end of the car is all mangled)
Pastor Carlos Carmona, of our L.A. North Spanish CON, received a phone call from Nicaragua that his wife, Silvia, was very ill with a bacterial infection and was hospitalized. The antibiotics were not working. Many of you have heard by now… Silvia passed away on Monday morning, December 21. This was NOT the way the Carmona family had planned to start off their week of Christmas. I know that you will be praying for the Carmona family as they prepare for services on Wednesday.
Eight days after the Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary journeyed that short distance from Bethlehem to Jerusalem… they had an appointment with the priest there in the Temple. Still on a high with the emotional turn of events from the birth of “their” firstborn… recalling the visit from the shepherds who had come to worship the child… they had pondered the story the shepherds had told of the visit from the angles. They were so overjoyed… Joseph was all prepared to make the needed sacrifices, give the necessary offerings… and announce publicly that His name was “Jesus”. This was a very special day for them.
Everything leading to this point told them that Jesus was a special baby boy. Gabriel said so. Any other angelic visits echoed the same sentiments. The shepherds all confirmed it. And… whenever the magi showed up… was just one more affirmation that God was in on this whole thing. But… it wasn’t until they came to Jerusalem on this day that the wheels began to spin a little differently. Not until Simeon entered the scene.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)
“The Cross at Christmas”… I am most certain that as Joseph and Mary made their way to the Temple… these words from Simeon were the last words they were planning to hear. They knew that they were cradling a very special baby boy. They were told that He was to be the Savior. They were, perhaps, eager to see all that would come about through His life and ministry… but, I don’t think they were prepared to hear that a cross was awaiting their Son.
For many years now, Leslie, the girls and I have had this tradition of placing, in the center of our Christmas tree… way up high for all to see, three crosses… This simple little “ornament” reminds us of the fact that on that first Christmas night… God was thinking of you and me. He was sending us His very best. The gift of His Son. Sure, He came from heaven… born in a small and insignificant town… among a poor, poor family… used as His first bed, a feeding trough… welcomed by a few smelly shepherds… He came in the most humble ways. But, all of that mattered not… at least, not to Mary, who nursed her baby boy that first week. She knew He was special. She was fully aware that God was with her… with Him… with them. What could possibly go wrong?
And then… Simeon enters the scene… not quite what Mary was prepared to hear. And I’m sure Joseph had to do some consoling the following day.
Yet, as we approach Christmas 2015, may we be reminded that the cross was the reason for His birth! We may make our plans for the days ahead… but, may we always be open to allow the Lord to re-direct us in any way He sees fit. Things don’t always turn out the way we plan. But, one thing is for certain… Jesus is Emmanuel. God is with us! I pray that these next few days will be most special for you as you encounter Jesus anew in your life!
“Lord Jesus, my life is in your hands.”
From the Garman home to yours… we wish you a very Merry Christmas! We love you and we look forward to seeing you in 2016!