2022 will be a year to remember. Leaving our home and moving after 20 years! Getting settled in a new community. Having my mom join us. All good things, yet change can bring stress and joy, challenge and expectation, and it impacted everyone in the family, even the dog!
Yet, here we are at the end of the year, recognizing again the faithfulness of God, His intimate care for us through these changes, and soaking in the wonder of all He has done in every detail.
I try to read an Advent devotional each year. This year, it was Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson. He walks through 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter on love. It was not what you would at first expect for an Advent book, but as I worked through each chapter, I began to see how appropriate it was. The love we are to have and demonstrate can only be had by knowing Christ’s love, demonstrated to us in His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection.
My husband and I memorized 1 Corinthians 13 when we were in high school. Something can become familiar, so you set it aside and forget to reference it, despite it being framed in our bathroom! But walking through its truth again was convicting. Consider the first three verses:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.I Corinthians 13:1-3
The person described might have a powerful faith, a faith that moves mountains! Speaking in the tongues of angels perhaps! Giving all to the poor! But the passage notes, if there is no love, it is nothing. He gains nothing. He is nothing. Sobering truth.
It then gives us a description of love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Considering each of those phrases as to how Jesus loved us and how I love, I could see the massive gaps and the many, many ways I fall short.
Further, whereas prophecies may cease, tongues will be stilled, and knowledge passes away, love never fails, does not end, and does not pass away (13:8). In fact, the greatest of faith, hope, and love is love (13:13). How can we know and receive this love? How can we humbly give this love?
On December 23, around 9 a.m., we lost our power due to the storm that hit the entire country, it seemed. In the grand scheme of things, ours was a relative inconvenience, nothing like what many people faced. Our house dropped into the 40s, and it was cold and dark. By the second day, when the power did not come back at 5 p.m. as had been projected, we realized we needed food and a hotel. It was now Christmas Eve. It had gotten dark outside, restaurants were closing early. We arrived to the first hotel, and after probably 30 minutes of working to find us a room, we heard the verdict: no room.
I drove to another hotel, and thankfully, they had space for us and the dog. We found one fast food open until 11 p.m. (thank you, Cook Out!) and got some food. As I tried to sleep, I lay there at 3 a.m. wondering about this whole experience. Though I knew the Lord wasn’t absent and that He was near, I didn’t feel His presence. I thanked Him for the provision of a warm place and food, but I wanted to sense His nearness. So I prayed and asked him about this.
I began to think about Mary and Joseph not finding any room in the inn. This experience could make you ponder that a little longer! Mary leaving her home to have a baby, finding no place to go, no room, ending up in a stable to give birth to Jesus. Wow.
And then I began to think about how, though our Christmas had been so much fun so far, we hadn’t yet worshiped. We were longing for the power at that point so we could cook and open gifts, but we hadn’t been able to ponder the true Gift.
And 1 Corinthians came back to mind… “If I speak in the tongues… If I have the gift of prophecy… If I give all I possess to the poor… but have not love, I am nothing.”
And I realized the comparison. If I have all the decorations and a warm and beautiful home, if I have all the gifts and the wonderful family, if we eat and enjoy each other and have a special celebration, but Christ is left outside the door of either our home or our hearts, we really have nothing. Yes, fun; yes, much to enjoy. But without Christ, there is no true Christmas. Without His love and loving sacrifice, we would be without hope. That is Christmas.
And as I lay in that hotel room thinking, I realized God wants to have our hearts. He wants us to know Him. And He’s made a way and given us truth so that we can. Our hearts are like the inn — will we make room for this baby who is our Creator and King? Or will we leave Him outside our hearts, outside the door, content to have what seems like much, but lacking the most important thing, Love Himself.
We awoke on Christmas Day to hear the power was now projected to return December 27 at 11:30 p.m. We watched our home church’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services by livestream. After our noon checkout, we found one restaurant open on Christmas Day, Applebees. As we waited for a table, my husband, who stayed home with the dog, called: we got power!! I turned around to my family: “We got power!” We ran to the car, raced to the house, started cooking our meals again and enjoyed opening our gifts. And I rejoiced in the fact that there is a reason for this celebration, Jesus, this baby born in the manger, our Savior and King. Without Him, life would be nothing, though it could seem we have everything. With Him, we truly have an eternal hope, a life beyond the grave, a purpose and peace and joy for today.
This was a Christmas to remember, a year to remember! I look forward with expectation and hope for the coming year, 2023, to see all God has in store, as we live each day before Him, trusting in Him.
Happy New Year! May you know the deep Love of our Savior, Jesus, who came to save us from our sins.