DAY 24 - Sacrifical Love

Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for walking with me as we wait and watch and meditate on the birth of Jesus. I’m thankful to God for giving me this idea and walking me through 24 late nights of writing.

My favourite Christmas verse is from Philippians chapter 2:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

What an inspirational example to follow. I love the opening sentence – ‘have this mindset in your relationships’. What does that look like? It is so sacrificial and humble that it’s hard to get our minds around.

This summer I became convicted that I needed to demonstrate more sacrificial love towards my husband for awhile in our daily life – that God wanted to give him some insights about being loved unconditionally. My first reaction was um, can’t I be the one who gets the sacrificial love first? HA. I wish I could say that I immediately was excited and thought it was a great idea, but I was reluctant to agree to laying down my own preferences and schedules in order to place him first and serve and lift him up. I think I feared being a doormat or taken advantage of or that my needs would be forgotten. I remember at first doing tasks thinking, ‘they better not think I’m always going to do this on my own.’ I’m not proud of that, but that’s me just being honest.

Several reminders came to me over the following months, such as a quote that is supposedly from Mother Teresa – ‘Wash the plate not because it is dirty or because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.’ And God kept reminding me that he’s enough to meet whatever needs I have. I don’t even know why I was reluctant at first. Incidentally, I’m not sure the lesson was ever really for my husband in the first place, as it has been so good for me to think about these things and step forward in faith, and it has really enriched our marriage as we walk through this life together.

If that simple task was difficult for me to humble myself for, imagine HOW MUCH MORE difficult it was for Jesus to give up everything he had since before the creation of the world to come as a newborn baby to a young couple in a barn in a town that wasn’t even their home. But he took on the being of a servant, and became obedient even to death on a cross. I need to sit with that for a moment.

It is so beautiful. It puts so much in perspective for me. I love him so much.

The last few verses are so triumphant, about God raising him up to the highest place, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow.

So you and me, we come to this manger, theoretically. Do we peek around the corner just to be nosy and not commit to any of it? Do we clean ourselves up a little bit so we are a little more presentable? Do we just read about it later and not go see for ourselves? Do we write it off as crazy-talk?

No, I pray we don’t. We go and see what Jesus is all about. We go just as we are, with pride and competing agendas and pain and whatever other dirt is on our clothes. We go right in to the stable and look into his eyes and take that amazing sacrificial love deep into our hearts. We humble ourselves and bow, we slowly kneel as we stretch out our hands and worship.

The King has come. Emmanuel, God with us. Glory to God in the highest. Thank you Lord.


DAY 23 - The Shadow

I only have two days left in this blog series! You might be tired of me by now, but I’m so happy to have had the chance to do this all month, and I’m a little sad to see it end! Thank you if you’ve stuck with me all month (you deserve a prize haha)!  Spending time reflecting on the Christmas story all month has been so good for my December. It has sparked many conversations with my friends and kids and also has been good for those times where it’s just me and God driving down the road or doing the dishes.

The other day I was in my front entry room, and noticed that high above on the wall, the light was shining from the kitchen through a nativity set I have, casting a perfect shadow of the nativity scene. It caught my eye and made me pause. It was another holy reminder of how much God has invested into Jesus coming to earth.

That memory has made ponder what it means to live in the shadow of the nativity. Maybe in some ways that’s what this blog has been all about from the start. What does it mean to place Jesus front and centre, and live there, in the shadow of God’s plan for my life, in the comfort of how much he loves me, in the safety of his wing?

It might reduce distractions from things that are less important. I would be less tempted to look at what others have in possessions or character traits or experiences and compare myself to them. I would be more willing to forgive others when they hurt me or overlook me. I would be less fearful about taking a leap of faith. It would take the power away from my anxious thoughts that sometimes threaten to consume me. I think living in the shadow of Jesus’ birth would help remind me of who I am, thus silencing loneliness and self-doubt.

And then maybe, as I went out into the world people would still see that shadow of Jesus in me. They would sense peace. Love. Joy. And Hope. Maybe that’s part of the way God wants to reach out to people who feel broken or alone or sad and tell them about His great love for them.

I think that is one of the things I will take with me from this December experience – the rich beauty of the Christmas story and the way it can shine in my life from day to day. I love living life in the shadow of the nativity and I am grateful for the chance to dwell there.


DAY 22 - Adoption

I may cry all the way through writing this one, as it’s a subject that is close to my heart!  I’d like to write about adoption tonight. I’ve been surprised to see the ties to adoption as I’ve spent time in the Christmas story this season.

The lineage of Jesus was detailed in Matthew chapter 1, all the way down to the line of Joseph. But Joseph had no DNA relation to Jesus, isn’t that so interesting? Right in the middle of the planning for Jesus birth and timing, God was preserving a faithful generation in the family of the father who would raise Jesus as his own.

Isn’t it beautiful and inspiring to think that maybe God does that now too? That he creates a child, sees that he or she needs a family, and has been holding a place down through the generations for that child to be loved? Ahh I love it so much.

I have two adopted siblings and the thought that God was working in our family ancestry to create a home to welcome those dearly loved ones is a very comforting and inspiring thought for me.

Being a sibling of an adopted sister or brother hasn’t always been easy, at least not in our family. It has driven me nuts through the years that something that should be so beautiful – taking in a child in need and giving them love and opportunity – can also be something that is so painful and difficult for the child and for the families involved. I have often wished that there wasn’t so much pain tied with adoption.

I started watching a show last year called Long Lost Family, where they try to help people find their birth relatives. While there are some aspects about the reunions that I think are a little shallow sometimes and maybe more painful than they need to be, I have found the experiences of the adopted individuals really eye-opening for me as a sibling in a family that has adopted people in it. Hearing the show’s participants talk about feeling unwanted by their birth mom through the years, even though they were in a loving family, or feeling lonely about never looking like anyone in their family, or feeling on the outside at family gatherings was heart-breaking for me, as I hadn’t really viewed situations through that lens before. I hope it has made me a better sibling to my brother and sister in recent years, and at the very least has open my eyes a bit about the experience of being adopted. Of course the experience is different for every person and every family, but I have found the insights to be kind of healing and insightful.

Thinking of Jesus as an adopted son is pretty rich. God didn’t have to involve adoption in the Christmas story, but I think God loves adoption too, and it is special that he made it part of Jesus’ heritage and life experience. God describes our relationship with Him in a similar way in that he has adopted us as well. Through Jesus and his sacrifice, we have become sons and daughters of God, adopted by him. God also describes true religion as caring for widows and orphans, which a friend of mine used to say in our modern day would translate to single moms and foster kids. It’s part of our mission to show extra kindness and compassion for those who need that the most.

If you know someone who is adopted or has adopted or foster children, the holidays can be a very difficult time, with magnified feelings and more intense family time. Maybe send a word of encouragement their way, or reach out to them in kindness to let them know they are loved. That might be a great way to honour the Christmas story and celebrate the gift of adoption in Jesus Christ.