It's the last weekday before Christmas. The better part of this week has been spent baking with the kids, making candies, tracking Amazon Prime, wrapping the last few gifts and squeezing in a few more Christmas movies. We've had school parties, church parties and took the Confirmation kids caroling at the local hospital (which was an interesting experience...you know, trying to get 7th and 8th graders to sing). It has been a fun week and we are all anticipating the celebration of tomorrow and Sunday, as we worship and praise our God, who sent his Son Jesus to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).
Last year around mid December, Jeff and I were driving to Fargo from Minneapolis. We had spent the weekend celebrating a birthday with family. As we drove, we started to talk about the plans for Christmas. Somewhere in the conversation, I remember saying "this could be the last year we're in North Dakota. Who knows where we'll be next year." In the midst of the final push of the seminary journey and the more clearly closed doors, we knew the time was coming. It was a difficult time with lots of questions, little clarity and what seemed like defeaning silence from God. Looking back, it is clear God was preparing our hearts and minds for where He would lead.
Tomorrow night, I'll help lead worship. We'll praise God, sing with the choirs and light candles to observe that silent night long ago, when God broke through the darkness and kept his promises to a desperate people, Israel. Then, on Sunday, I will preach about the joy of Christmas day, just like I have the past three years. Except, I'm preaching in a different place, to different people. As I look back on the past year, it is not lost on me that in my darkness, God broke through and kept his promises.
Scripture reminds us that God is a great Father, who lavishes his love on us. He is putting things into place and preparing a future for you that is far beyond what you can imagine. We have hope that when we look back, even into the darkness, we will see how he was at work, preparing us for the next place. We can trust that while we struggle, Christ is with us. We have a God who keeps his promises.
This Christmas, if you find it difficult to sing, if you struggle to smile, if you are in a desperate place, I want to encourage you: God has not forgotten you. He sees your struggles, he understands the sadness, he is present in the pain. While right now it is difficult to see, God is at work.
I give thanks and praise for the darkness and desperation. I give thanks for the ways God shines, even when it is hard to see. I give thanks for a God I can trust and turn to in all things. And I give thanks that his purposes - his good purposes - are far greater than anything than I could have ever thought to imagine.