What a year! From the mountain tops to the valleys, 2020 has taken us on a physical, financial, emotional, relational, and political ride. The only thing that has been constant this year is the saving grace and mercy of our loving Heavenly Father. I want to speak directly to you. Though the winds of adversity may have blown strongly enough to literally take you out, you are here reading this as a reminder that God is with you. What a beautiful kiss from heaven and assurance that you are his and he is yours. In Isaiah 43:2-3, our Lord proclaims, When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…

       You may really need to pause and meditate on this passage if 2020 has caused you to lose confidence that God is with you. I reiterate… GOD IS WITH YOU;  HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THERE. He has seen your tears. Nothing you have faced this year has gone unnoticed and the message of Christmas explains why. You may be asking, “How does the message of Christmas speak to the difficulties I’ve encountered this year?”  The answer is simple. Christmas is a celebration of the most beautiful and precious gift we could ever receive. Imagine receiving a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift from a spouse, a loved one, or a friend. I have a mentee who takes gift wrapping to another level.  I’m always excited by the exquisite appearance of her gift. It humbles me, and gives me joy beyond what I feel I deserve. Her gift overshadows any other gifts I may have received for the occasion.. Imagine my excitement as I unwrap and open it. I feel unworthy of it because she never asks me for favors of any kind. I don’t have the right to expect that kind of generosity or kindness.

       That’s what God did over 2,000 years ago. He gave us the ultimate gift—Jesus.  He was birthed into this world to be our Savior, our passport to an abundant life and a blissful eternity. He is a gift that is everything we need on our life’s journey if we accept his invitation to allow him to occupy our hearts.  Even His name, Immanuel, literally means “God with us”. Matthew 1:23 declares, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means ‘God with us’”).

       So, yes, my friends, I know 2020 has stretched you in ways that you may not be able to articulate, but I want to reiterate that God is with you always. As you celebrate Christmas this season,  whether it is alone (well, not really alone) or with family and friends, be reminded of the ultimate gift of Jesus and his eternal presence (versus presents). And be grateful. Celebrate him in his fullness and watch how you are filled with the joy and peace that only the Holy Spirit can provide. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

My Challenge to You:

       Your Christmas will be as “merry” as you make it. So refocus your thoughts from what “isn’t” or how you wish things could be, and give others the gift of your time, your caring, your encouraging words, and your finances or service—even if it requires a sacrifice. Why not donate a dozen or more pairs of socks or some blankets to a shelter? Keep a stash of “benevolent bills” on hand to give to homeless people or to a random “needy-looking-person” at the gasoline station.   Remember that giving is at the core of real joy. I pray that you have a very, Merry Christmas!

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