For the first time ever, I didn’t want to take down the nativity scene at the front of the church. That’s unusual. Usually by the time that Christmas is over, I’m ready not to see it again for at least twelve months!
Don’t get me wrong! I enjoy giving and getting gifts and seeing loved ones. But there have been years where it was so hectic at Christmas with three to four programs that I felt burned out. That was the one good thing, I thought, about this year…no programs! I told my family that I might actually like Christmas this year. It’s just the rat race of the entire season that sometimes feels overwhelming. Then add in the lack of sleep, emotions, and stress to the whole scene. December is not usually a month that I look forward to. My daughter Lexie loves Christmas. In August, she longingly thinks of the decorations and tells me, “I can’t wait for Christmas.” I find myself cringing.
Then this year, we found out that our church really did want a program. We tried to throw something together since we only had knowledge of this a week or two ahead of time. Really, we would only have two or three practices. Some children were not able to make it to any of them, but they still wanted to be in it. There were those joining in at the last second, and those getting out of it (some of them as they were already on the platform in costume).
The whole season began speeding up with not only holiday preparation, but also the end of the school semester and my father-in-law’s hospitalization after his stroke. The weekend of the program was complete with get togethers and a funeral. We got back from the funeral with less than an hour to spare before the first children were arriving to put on costumes. And yet, through it all, God was so good to us! He blessed us with His presence in our simple Christmas service.
When the lights came back on, I saw different ones with red eyes from crying. It was God, honoring His story.
But I was still on high speed. Even by Monday, I still had not slowed down. (Well, until the police stopped me outside of Caney, Kansas, and let me know how fast I was going. Literally!) This holiday is supposed to be about God, and how many years has it seemed like a blur of activity to me?
Then, Tuesday a wonderful thing happened. I had to go next door to the church for something. When I stepped into the sanctuary, God was there. There on the platform was the manger scene, waiting to be taken down. Somehow, it seemed to symbolize to me the room that we had made. I had planned on dropping off an item at the church and dashing back home to finish the bookkeeping that I was so far behind in. But it didn’t matter anymore. I told God, “Look! We made room for you on the platform. And I choose to make room for you in my schedule today. Please don’t leave.”
There’s something about when the presence of God comes that it brings peace. All of the hurry and worrisome thoughts were gone. Really it was so simple. I had felt so much guilt the week before at not having more room in my schedule, and I finally had it. I had run for days feeling exhausted, depleted, and out of time. But what a sweetness when a day of rest came. I told God that I wanted to pour my time out as an offering to Him. I said, “Lord, I don’t have any frankincense, gold, or myrrh. But I do have a little bit of time today that I can pour out to You like the woman pouring out the perfume…as an offering of praise to You.”
I love it when God responds—when He lets you know that He is pleased, when you have His smile of approval. I thought of John Wesley’s words that I had wanted to add to last week’s devotional, “Best of all, God is with us.”
Last week, as I worked on the devotional, I fought technology! My line spacing was doing things before my eyes that I was not wanting it to do. More spacing. Fewer spacing. More. Finally, it seemed like the best I could do was just press “send.” But my heart added… “Best of all, God is with us.”
That was what John Wesley’s heart wanted from the time he was a young man to the end. It took a journey for him to get to that assurance. I understand. That is what my heart wanted through all my wilderness wanderings. All my ups and downs. The time I was walking in the light, and the time I wasn’t. It was God’s desire all along to lead me to a place of assurance.
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.” Colossians 2:2
That was the best thing to know that God was with me. That is what I longed for!
That is the vacancy in hearts today whether people realize it or not.
The John Wesley at the end of his life was not the same man who was so troubled when he was young over his lack of assurance. When he was dying, he said, “Best of all, God is with us.” What more could you want when you are dying? What more could you want when you are living?
I have prayed for those who are opening emails. Prayed for their churches, their little areas where God has placed them. Prayed that the light of God would be evident to them. That they would make room in their schedules and time.
Lord, I have made room for you in my life. I need Your manifest presence. I’ve made room for you on the platform. I’ve carved a spot for you from my schedule. I’ve put you in.
Best of all, God is with us.