We learned about leil shimurim in Sunday school today. In Hebrew, this is the night of the watches and refers to Passover night or the night of the Exodus. Our teacher referred to the watching and waiting of the Israelites during the final plague—hearing the cries of affected households and waiting to see how the Lord deals with all.
Silver sleeps on nearby hills and all the earth inhales–waiting still. We have almost arrived. These past days of feasting with friends, singing songs of angels and snow, the scripture readings, and all the making merry…they have done this task of preparing hearts.
We stand on tiptoe, craning neck, jockeying for our turn to peek into the manger.
Have you seen the Christ child?
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:16-20, NIV)
Have you seen him?
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him…Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus…Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2: 25-32, NIV)
When you gaze upon him, when you see him…what happens in your heart?
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old…She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2: 36-38, NIV)
They hurried and praised.
He took the babe in his arms and praised.
She gave thanks and spoke about the child to all…
How do I greet the Christ child?
Each Christmas season I stare long into the manger and I ask, how does the truth of this story change ME? How do I greet the child, this swaddled bundle, arms flailing and perfect toes peeking out from bands of tattered cloth?
I have seen the Christ.
I have gazed upon him in the manger—seen the pink flush over the brown of his baby skin. I have held his hand in the desert…felt the comfort of his strong arms. I have gazed upon the cross—grieved the cost of my sin and rejoiced at his willing sacrifice. I know he lives still yet.
He changes me.
Like the shepherds, he fills me with joy. With Simeon, I am ready…after touching him—and he touching me—I can be in peace with whatever is to come. And like Anna, I must tell…I must share this amazing, incredible story of redemption.
When I let the truth of this story permeate the depths of my marrow—when his person dwells in my every breath…the manger compels. He is Emmanuel. He is God With Us.
How do you greet the Christ child?
Merry Christmas Eve, Beloveds. As you prepare to peek into the manger, may you feel the joy of the shepherds, the peace of Simeon, and the wonder of the prophetess.
She asked us to write down our heavy.
…bring the burden from the dark into the light.
It shouldn’t be so hard. So why this lump in my throat? I know the particular battle I have been facing. Have even named it. But when I write down those words— tie letters together in loopy lines—they loom large.
How does one find hope again?
I know all the right answers. I’ve used my concordance. The NIV has 174 verses containing the root hope.
I’ve been reading through. In turns, the verses buoy me then fill me with despair. I know what scripture says about hope. I know where my hope is. But lately…my heart doesn’t.
I need a heart change. And there’s no easy way to get that.
I write the prayer out and close my Bible study book. I pick up the other Book…pick up where I’ve left off. I’ve been reading through the Bible in a year, using one of those online plans that make sure you proceed through in a sensible order. These past weeks have found me in Isaiah.
My eyes follow the passage and then drop below to read the commentary. This has been my practice—listening first with my heart and then with my mind. This day my eyes bulge as I read the commentator notes:
Isaiah spoke by inspiration to people who had lost hope.
A whole book written for those who felt this soul-ache of hopelessness? Did they feel this heavy burden of tired? Sorrow so deep my finger can’t trace through to the beginning? Did they try and try in their own power to bring it back? And just grow even more tired?
This is how it feels to give up on hope.
My eyes are hungry for Isaiah now. What does he say to these hope-less people?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in…
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40)
I ponder what these words mean. Savor their strength. Grasp for it…search for a small kindling of hope.
I read on.
I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams.
One will say, “I belong to the Lord”;
another will call himself by the name of Jacob;
still another will write on his hand, “The Lord’s”,
and will take the name Israel.
So I do it. I write it on my hand.
Then I fix breakfast for the boys, pack their lunches and take them to school. I run six miles and come home to walk Lucy Mae another. I take a shower and run to Charleston. I shop four hours for the perfect bookshelf that I never find. But I do find a suitcase I desperately need for an upcoming trip. I get caught in traffic on the way home. I vacuum the entire downstairs and mop the kitchen floor. I do three loads of laundry. I check over Jeffrey’s math homework and help him identify five news items each for local, regional, and world news.
At dinner, I remember.
And I look down at my hand.
The words are gone. They’ve slipped away. Somewhere between dirty mop water and a pile of clean underwear, I think. And I feel my heart sink.
Not because the words I have written on my hand have disappeared, but because I know that I must write them on my heart. And not giving them a thought all day…where IS my heart?
I only wish that if I wrote it over and over, like a naughty school child doing lines on the blackboard, that it would be true.
My hope is in the Lord.
My hope is in the Lord.
My hope is in the Lord…
I know that busy takes my eyes off of Him. I struggle. Life gets to me sometimes. I am praying forgiveness and hope this week, my friends. Will you please pray them too? And maybe for some of that strength that flies on wings like eagles?
Yes. That would be nice.
Thank you, sweet friends.
I am waiting.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
He rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18)
I sat in the moist grass at dusk, staring up, peasant skirt splayed out around me. I hadn’t had a chance to change out of my work clothes—vaguely thought of jeans–could feel the damp seeping into the thin material…but was too spent to truly care. It was Tired Tuesday, the day I drive back and forth, rush to and fro, counseling the wounded and shuttling eager minds.
As I sat, thus, my husband paced back and forth along the side of the house, shining his flashlight steadily along its sturdy frame.
We have bats.
During the daylight hours we can hear them scratching about in the bowels of the soffit, leaving no doubt about their presence. We have scoured the shell of our humble abode but so far have not found their doorway in. Or out, for that matter.
So we waited at dusk, straining to catch sight of wing as light slowly waned.
The stars came out, one by one, and soon thoughts of furry winged creatures flew…I was enchanted by the coming on of night. The air was filled with birdsong, and I wondered why the Robins sing at dusk. Is it a lullaby? A farewell? Or simply a song of gratitude to Him who gave the day?
My thoughts lingered on my own.
A long day, it was. Frustrating. Disappointing.
My unhappiness at work grows, and yet…nothing changes.
I think of one of the patients I talked with today. How his words filled me, yet left me empty.
I love what I do, he said. I awaken every day filled with gratitude. I get to do this thing I love. It’s amazing.
I tried to hold his gaze as he spoke, but I felt he could see through me—I felt watery, translucent.
So I looked away.
I have tried to live each moment. Appreciate the gifts of the Giver. I have prayed the prayer for Rescue.
But I remain unsettled.
I think these things as the night slowly settles in…as my breath becomes mist before me and Jeff waves around his light in the dark.
I’m not sure why I did it…well, okay, maybe I am…but suddenly I got up and grabbed the rake out of the garage’s gaping mouth. Turning it on end, I wacked the soffit with the tip of its handle.
It felt good.
I heard a stirring, but still no bats.
I did it again.
I think you’re just scaring them, Jeff said. They’re not going to come out.
I couldn’t force this thing to happen. I let the rake fall. Stupid, benign…useless thing.
I am waiting for bats.
Among other things.
I know that eventually, with a great shiver, they will emerge from their hiding place—move in one wave across sky. And when they return they will find their home closed up, filled with foam insulation.
But until then, I just wait.
In the end, we might end up dismantling the whole blasted soffit, but things can’t stay this way much longer.
I will wait a little longer.
But not too much.
They say bat feces is toxic you know.
Will you celebrate with me the end of a season of waiting for my friend Faith Elaine? You can learn more about the release of her beautiful devotional book here. Elaine is a very special lady to me. Recently, when I posted this, this sweet lady immediately called me up and held my heart through the tantrum. She is the real thing. I just can’t wait to get a copy of that book in my hands!