The countdown is on! What do you have your heart set on this Christmas?
Last week I wrote that with the birth of the Babe in the Manger comes gifts. We discovered the first one: He longs to bring to us freedom from GUILT through a restored, loving, shame-free relationship with God the Father.
Forgiveness and a relationship with God bring with them true freedom. With freedom comes all for which we truly long.
As I write this, I am traveling to Dallas to the funeral of my beloved and only Uncle Gene Paul Daniel (please pray for the repose of his soul). He was a Baptist minister and a gentle giant in my life. While his passing has left big shoes to fill here on earth, we are confident that there is much rejoicing in heaven because he died with great hope in his heart and in friendship and at peace with God. His memorial service will reflect that. It will be a "hymn sing" praising God for the beautiful life of grace lived by my uncle.
How can we dare rejoice at such a sad time? Because of this second great truth, one of three spectacular gifts that the birth of Christ ushers in:
FREEDOM from FEAR.
If you could be liberated from the greatest fear of all--DEATH--would you attempt more in life? Be more daring? Do more than just try to fit in and survive?
Amazingly, friendship with Jesus, through the relationship He establishes for us with God the Father, gives us true freedom from the fear of death because death is not the final word for those who place their trust in Him. We are promised the hope of heaven. Death is only a doorway we walk through to a place where we will be truly free in the loving presence of the Father.
The Bible states this in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57:
“And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
AHH! Freedom! Liberation from the fear of death! And if you have conquered the greatest fear of all—death--every other fear pales in comparison. God gives us the freedom to live our best life now.
This week’s challenge: close your eyes. Envision ten days into the future. What will you wish you had done or said today? How will you wish you would have lived? Be bold! Invite a neighbor or co-worker to join you for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Mass. Be courageous to live this present moment in love.
Now envision ten years down the road…
What do you wish you would have done today? This week? This year? What initiatives do you wish you would have undertaken? What is holding you back—fear of any sort? If fear is holding you back from accomplishing this dream, ask God to help you overcome this fear so that you can live in the Source of true freedom—the gift that the birth of Jesus Christ comes to give.
Fearlessly trust in God! And walk in the freedom He brings.
“May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
Yipes! I confess, I am afraid. I seem to be plagued by fear when I really look at my life closely. Fearful of what others might think of me. Fearful I won’t be able to do or become all that You (and I) long for me to be. Fearful that if I say YES to You, You will take me out of my comfort zone to do things I don’t really feel I can do (or honestly, want to do). Oh Lord-help me! I don’t want to live my life with fear as my source for decision making…I want to live my life with YOU as the Source for all that I do. Please give me the grace to walk in the faith that You always have my best at heart. Give me hope to believe that I can do all that You ask of me! And give me love for everyone that You place in my path! Give me courage and perseverance, fortitude and strength. And when all of my own resources run dry—hallelujah! Because I was never meant to run off of those. I was made to trust in You to fill me with Yourself! Please give me a greater portion of You, for in You is found all that I need. Come, Lord Jesus! Come!
I ask this in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*The picture above is from this month’s (December 2017) National Geographic Magazine taken by Simon Norfolk. It is an icon of the Madonna and Child called “Eleftherotria,” or “The Liberator”! I love that they look arrayed for battle! It hangs in the Greek Orthodox prayer hall in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I highly recommend reading the article on “The Search for the Real Jesus” in this December issue of the magazine and seeing the spectacular, virtual, 3-D, interactive exhibit on the Tomb of Christ at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC. Well worth the price ($15 Adults, $10 Child, under five-free). A highlight of my holidays. Tickets here.