Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come from the wedding feast, that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Luke 12:35-36 ESV
I would love to say that I am ready for Christmas. But, I am not. Sunday I pulled my tree out of its box, snapped its three pieces together, and plugged it in. The white lights flickered and then began to twinkle. A festive glow glimmered throughout the room.
I would love to say I grabbed one of the multitude of boxes of Christmas ornaments and went to town adorning my newly assembled tree. But, I did not. Instead, I grabbed my laptop and began grading papers and making lesson plans. For now, the tree would have to wait for another day, work was the pressing need of the moment.
I would love to say that this scenario is a new one for me. But, it is not.
The past few Christmases in our house have been sideswiped by unexpected, difficult, and time-demanding circumstances. Individually they don’t sound like much, but like compounding credit card interest they totaled a debt that completely depleted my emotional bank account. Honestly, I have been worn out. As a teacher by the time the semester ends at school (our last day was two days before Christmas Eve), I am too tired to take on the tasks of Christmas.
The sad thing is, by the time I have been home for a few days, have rested a little, and am ready to prepare for Christmas, it’s over. It’s frustrating. For the past several years, my energy levels haven’t matched my seasonal celebration plans.
I thought about my lack of Christmas ready as I read Luke 12: 35-36. I realized that I would not have been the ready- at- the door guy waiting for the groom to return. I would have been the scrounging- around guy trying to finish up a few loose ends before the master’s big arrival. The pressing needs of the urgent would have distracted me from what was important.
My season of weariness is teaching me that there really isn’t a best time (or enough time) for all the things we desire to do. Life can be exhausting. Work. Children. Home. Aging-Parents. Hobbies. Spouses. All of these things tug at our time. Like unwinding ball of string, each one pulls a strand of time (and energy) away from us until all that’s left are a few straggling strands of seconds.
In 2014, my word for the year was intentional. I chose it because I wanted to move beyond having good intentions; I wanted to be more intentional about my relationships and actions. I didn’t want important things to sneak up on me or worse yet pass me by leaving me unready for them. I wanted to manage my time instead of having time manage me.
It is now 2023 and I am still struggling with being intentional. Unlike the men in Luke 12, I have a propensity to let the urgent crowd out the important. If we look closely, we can find key to the men being ready; they were intentional about it. They stayed dressed. They kept their candles lit. They listened intently at the door for the knock.
Oh, how I want to be intentional about being ready for my Master. Unlike my lack of Christmas readiness, I don’t want the worries, stresses, obligations and hurts of my days to keep me from listening for my Lord. I don’t want to let weariness keep me from seeing Him around me. I want Him to fill all my moments. I want continuous conversations with Him to dance and flicker like Christmas lights on a tree. I want my desire for Him to crowd out the desires for myself. I want the importance of His presence to diminish the distractions that pull at me.
Like the men at the door, may we all be ready to open our eyes, hearts, minds and hands when our Savior knocks.
That you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:4
If we are honest, I think all of us have had moments when we have wrestled with our faith. Like Jacob, we have struggled through the night with doubts about God’s love, presence or provision. We may have wondered “why me” more than we care to admit. Maybe, hardships and disillusionment have exhausted us causing us to become worn out and weary desperately seeking a tangible touch from God.
Likewise, the people of God had been waiting a long time for the promised Messiah. After ten generations of suffering, hardships, persecution, disappointments, and most of all silence, they had to be tired. Maybe even hopeless. I imagine in the quiet moments in the dark, doubts must have swirled around them like dust caught in the wind. Questions probably bubbled to the surface about what they had been taught for generations. Rising and falling like labored breath. True? Not true? Cares? Doesn’t care? Coming? Not coming?
Doubts are like that. They rise and fall with the tide of our circumstances. The longer the hardships last, the deeper the doubts grow.
But, in the midst of the darkness, in the deepest part of our darkest doubt, God is there. Waiting. Listening. Holding. Loving.
God never discounts our doubts nor dismisses them. Instead, God wrangles our doubts, untangles them, ties them up, and sets us free. He uses our struggles of faith to build a stronger faith within us. He loves us enough to allow us to wrestle until Truth becomes our own.
One of the great patriarchs of our faith wrestled with his faith as well. The story of Jacob wrestling all night with the Lord is outlined in the book of Genesis and stands as an example for all of us. In the end, Jacob walked away from his midnight tussle of trust a new person. He walked away with a limp, a blessing and a new name. His encountered changed him. He started with doubts but left convinced of his faith and committed to his God. We can experience the same thing too.
Friends, we all struggle at times to understand the hardships happening around us. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God states, “For my thoughts are not your, thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV). The comfort I see in these verses is hearing that I don’t have to know it all. God already knows we don’t “get it”. Therefore, we don’t have to be ashamed to question, test, and rethink our faith. He knows we struggle. He can handle our questions, doubts, fears and anger. Besides, He knows all of it already.
However, the one truth we need to cling to, even if everything else is topsy-turvy, is that God loves us. God loves us so much “…that he gave his only Son, what whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 ESV. You can be unsettled about many things but Jesus is the one thing upon which you can rest assured.
As we enter this Christmas season and start to decorate, let’s take time to slow down and see the evidence of God’s love, presence and provision in our lives. Let’s let Luke’s words in chapter one verse four, “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” inspire us to use all of the Christmas festivities surrounding us to strengthen our faith. Faith in the fact that Jesus is the ultimate evidence of God’s love, presence and provision in our lives.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.